Can lightning strike twice for Sacha Baron Cohen, or is Bruno just a Borat retread?
Given the success of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, it was hardly a surprise when it was announced that Brüno was set to hit the big screen, given the fact that this was the only one of his main comedy creations yet to hit the big screen.
Borat was made for $18,000,000 and ended up taking more than £260,000,000 worldwide, which, as I’m sure you’ll all agree, is one hell of a profit. This no doubt helped Universal make the decision to pay $42.5 million for the rights to Brüno and I’d be surprised if they didn’t see a healthy return on their investment.
Brüno starts with a montage of footage that sets up the character and gives you all the information you need to know: he’s the flamboyantly gay presenter of the biggest fashion show in a German-speaking country (that’s not Germay), Funkyzeit. This earns him front row seats at all the big fashion shows and helps him decide what’s in and what’s out – autism, for example, is in because it’s funny. Brüno has been in love twice: once with Milli from 80s pop outfit Milli Vanilli and second, with current partner, pygmy flight attendant, Diesel.
Things seem to be wunderbar for Brüno, that is until he decides to wear a suit made of velcro whilst conducting interviews backstage at the Agatha Ruiz de la Prada show at Milan’s fashion week. When asked to leave he gets tangled up with the curtain as well as a rail of clothing, stumbles onto the runway and takes the opportunity to walk down the runway until the lights cut out and he’s forcibly ejected.
Following the stunt, Brüno is fired from Funkyzeit and subsequently dumped by Diesel. With his heart broken and his life in ruins he leaves for Ameica, with his assistant Lutz, to become “the most famous Austrian since Hitler”. And this is where the movie really kicks in.
What follows is a series of hilarious set pieces that include: a test screening for his talk show, “starring” as an extra on Medium, being chased by angry people in the Middle East for dressing like a Hassidic Jew but adapting the outfit to incorporate hot pants. He tries to broker peace in the Middle East and confused hummus with Hamas (surely pita bread is the real enemy?), but gets the two rivals to admit that hummus is a good thing.
The most shocking of the set pieces, for me at least, was Brüno interviewing parents who want their children to appear in his photo shoot with his newly adopted African baby OJ. It really was alarming to see how far they’re prepared to go to get their child the gig. A lot of the other moments are included in the trailer and to go into too much detail would ruin a lot of the set pieces, but I will say the footage in the trailer only hints at what you’ll see in the movie.
Cohen teams up again with Larry Charles who directed Borat and has a strong comedy background having been involved with Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. This is a comedy partnership that works incredibly well; both of them clearly have great knowledge of what will work and make the audience laugh. There aren’t many moments in the movie’s 83-minute runtime that misfire.
Brüno isn’t a highbrow comedy by any means, but that’s not what you expect from it. It’s not to say that there aren’t elements of intelligence in the movie – there clearly are. It’s often crude and vulgar but it’s consistently hilarious, which is a lot more than could be said than a lot of comedies we’ve seen this year which gave away a lot of the laughs in their trailers (The Hangover and I Love You, Man being prime examples). As stated earlier, a lot of set pieces are included in the trailer for Brüno, but it only hints at what you’ll see.
Cohen goes to further extremes than what was seen in Borat and goes to great lengths to get a laugh, often putting his own personal safety at risk.
It’s safe to say Brüno won’t be to everyone’s tastes but it is very, very funny. The screening I went to was packed and the majority of the audience seemed to enjoy the movie – there were numerous bursts of applause throughout the movie as well as when it finished, which is something I haven’t experienced in a cinema outside of America.
Those who struggled with the sight of Dr. Manhattan’s member in Watchmen will be in for a rough ride here.I enjoyed it but, whilst the laughs come thick and fast, the targets are easy and some of the sequences are clearly staged (although not as much as in Borat).
I’m not sure that it will hold up to repeat viewing as a lot of the laughs are from the shock factor of the scenes and when this subsides I think the film will suffer as a result, which is what prevents me awarding it four stars.
Brüno is released on July 10th.