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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15.69%
Worth A Look29.41%
Pretty Bad: 5.88%
Total Crap: 19.61%

5 reviews, 21 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"You Know How I Know You're Gay?"
3 stars

Of the three characters Sacha Baron Cohen became on his famed sketch show, Bruno was always my least favorite. Not because of any intolerance towards flamboyant gay stereotypes. His targets within the fashion and heterosexual communities were always just too obvious and his broadly-performed caricature made him less likable than Borat and less satiric than Ali G. Odd considering of how many areas Bruno could be on the offensive about. Not that he isnít, especially in his feature-length offering, completing Cohenís trifecta of big screen translations for his characters. (Yes, Ali G had a movie well before Borat captured Americaís attention.) While there are some big laughs to be had, Bruno ultimately fails at its more grandiose intentions as a sharp satire about our obsessions with celebrity and tendencies towards homophobia.

For everyone who never saw Da Ali G Show, Bruno (Sacha Baron Cohen) brings us up to speed about who he is and what his penis has been up to. Seriously, Dirk Diggler wasnít as obsessed with showing off his shlong as Bruno is. When heís fired from his Austrian fashion show in what seems to be an extreme overreaction for causing a ruckus on the runway with velcro body suit, Bruno heads off to America to reinvent his celebrity status. Joined by his assistantís assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten), who sports a crush on him, Bruno attempts to get a new celebrity interview show off the ground. His first catch, Paula Abdul, runs in horror when his tendency to use men as props runs afoul of her palette. Things donít get much better when a focus group doesnít exactly respond to his pilot featuring more shots of his toolbox than actual celebrities, save for one ďexclusiveĒ interview with Harrison Ford that may be the funniest moment in the entire film.

Bruno ratchets up his quest for fame by taking a cue from other celebs involved in solving third world problems. If George Clooney can help Darfur, why canít Bruno bring peace to Jerusalem? If Angelina Jolie and Madonna can adopt black babies, why canít he swap an iPod for one? Things get more complicated as he decides the one thing the biggest celebrities have in common is their penchant for being straight. The bulk of the filmís second half is dedicated to Bruno seeking out gay conversionists and doing manly things like hunting, joining the military and participating in swinger parties. Too bad he didnít seek out a mirror along the way since he would discover not a reflection of Americaís prejudices but an ignorant instigator that is too self-involved to realize weíre not always laughing with him.

That is the significant difference between the questionable behavior of Cohenís alter-egos. Much of Boratís could be forgiven as a product of his isolated culture; ignorance without the means to intentionally hurt anyone Ė except maybe the Jews. Borat by all accounts had a lovable streak to him and we sympathized with his hunt for true love while laughing hysterically at the discomfort he brought to uptight authority types. Bruno does not have the advantage of pleading mere ignorance. For someone deeply ingrained in a worldly industry populated by sophistication (however faux), Bruno should simply know better. Heís not as simplistic as playing up the broader aspects of fashion critics and runway reporters. When heís interviewing a model about how hard it is to use her right leg then her leg, we never get the sense that heís doing it to poke fun. Cohen certainly, but not Bruno, who is either genuinely interested enough or dumb enough to play up the importance. And if we were not meant to be rooting for the guy, it might all play differently.

The shock value laughs on hand in Bruno are directly proportioned to how tolerant your radar for staged antics are. If this was all just a scripted Bruno film, certain scenes would not be stigmatized with the wondering if they are real or fake, actors or lay people. Accepting everything at face value though still doesnít remove the mean-spirited nature and even staleness of many of the situations. There are close to a half-dozen scenes where the sole joke is Brunoís attempt to place his package (real or fake) in as close proximity to another guy (gay or straight) as possible. Once youíve actually seen a very funny montage of blacked-out penetration in the first ten minutes, any reference to anal sex actually becomes passe for the next 70. His segment in the National Guard is a total bust. Far removed from any pointed statement on ďdonít ask, donít tellĒ, anyone (man, woman, gay, straight, young, old) who behaves that way in front of a drill sergeant is going to be reprimanded Ė and justifiably so. Wow Ė you mean armed rednecks from the south who like extreme wrestling hate homosexuals? Really blew the lid off nookie there. Instead of playing out the irony of a bunch of homophobes cheering on a pair of sweaty guys rolling around on a mat, Brunoís big finale consists of the already well-publicized event where Cohen enraged a crowd with a public display of man love. Funny? Somewhat. Satiric? Hardly. Not funny is the obviously unstaged predicament of luring Presidential candidate Ron Paul into being the unwitting participant of a celebrity sex tape. Never accounting for Paulís stance on gay rights (in Kirby Dick/Outrage-style), the scene is akin to watching your grandfather on the receiving end of a date rape.

Bruno is going to make people laugh and there are certainly some very funny moments. Maybe they wonít care where the level of satire succeeds, but thereís a repetition to Brunoís antics that make it dangerously close to a one-joke film. Fashion, celebrity and rednecks Ė hardly targets that havenít received their share of scorn over the years and Bruno has one dart per subject. Itís a bit hard to expose the vacuous existence of certain celebrities when youíre attempting to mock some of the more noble efforts that John Q. Public couldnít (or wouldnít be bothered) to care about. Bruno winning in the end shouldnít be a victory that brings about a We Are The World gathering of some of musicís bigggest philanthropists. Cohen doesnít want us to hate Bruno though. Doing so would bring about the uncomfortable suggestion that we (and maybe even Cohen himself) were attacking his orientation; a basis that would have proven a tougher and braver challenge for the gifted performer. Certain sections of the South aside, there should be no basis for those not bowled over by Brunoís behavior to be labeled as homophobic. An asshole is an asshole and Bruno should know that better than anyone.

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originally posted: 07/10/09 14:00:00
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User Comments

9/14/10 Karamashi Shocking, crude, messy, but hilarious. 4 stars
6/19/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Great movie. Could not stop laughing! 5 stars
6/14/10 mr. mike It has a cuople of big laughs , but the bloom is clearly off the rose, 2 stars
1/11/10 David Not bad, but the shock value wears off on repeat viewings. 3 stars
11/28/09 Luke Ignore the 1-star ratings here - unless you're homophobic 5 stars
8/28/09 Emmy Kay Butanone Elton John must be getting senile, to be willing to appear in this gay-bashing rubbish! 1 stars
8/27/09 Gretchen Seitz A conundrum. Is this gay-bashing or gay-oriented? Go figure. 3 stars
8/27/09 R. G. Ranade Bold and brave, sure, but just not funny enough. 2 stars
8/15/09 damalc offensive for the sake of being offensive, while hoping for a laugh 2 stars
8/07/09 Rachel "How do you protect yourself from a dildo?" Great film. Can't wait for the DVD. 5 stars
7/29/09 Knightfox21 Major letdown...pretty gross. Cohen has done better work. 1 stars
7/29/09 Brew Gross & totally scripted ... Borat was 100 times better 1 stars
7/23/09 The Great Lee Card funny as hell, takes a bit to get into then totally absorbing, almost as good as borat 5 stars
7/18/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Frightened closet homophobes funnier than tossed dwarves! Ron Paul bit unfunny though. 4 stars
7/17/09 Makman Was OK. Lacked the oomph of Borat. Not great, but not a total disaster either. 3 stars
7/14/09 Luisa Fearless and disturbingly funny! 5 stars
7/14/09 Mick "You Know How I Know Gay?" 30% give a negative on RT, thats how. 5 stars
7/13/09 Flounder An oftentimes hilarious film. Not as original or organized as Borat 4 stars
7/13/09 The Game Not as good as Borat. Very overrated. Weak film. 1 stars
7/12/09 The Talking Elbow I'd like to see someone else try to sneak into a terrorist leader's lair to prank them. 5 stars
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  10-Jul-2009 (R)
  DVD: 17-Nov-2009


  DVD: 17-Nov-2009

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