July 14, 2009 -- Some people haven't heard about Sacha Baron Cohen yet. He is still catching people unawares with his candid camera tricks, even people who should know better, like former presidential candidate Ron Paul. Here is your warning: Sacha Baron Cohen does ambush interviews. He does vulgar, overtly sexual comedy. He sets up the unsuspecting to reveal their prejudices. O.K., you've been warned. If you get caught by Cohen's cameras, don't sign the release forms if you think you're going to be embarrassed by what you did or said.
After his previous film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, you would think people would wise up, but some people never wise up. Like “Borat,” Brüno features the same kinds of tricks. This time Cohen plays a different character, that of a gay Austrian model. He is out to expose homophobia in America, like that is hard to find. One of the funniest bits takes place in a cage wrestling show where he stages a homoerotic scene in front of a hostile crowd to the tune of that famous love song from “Titanic.” The angry crowd throws all kinds of stuff at the amorous pair, including a steel folding chair. This is not the only risky behavior Cohen engages in. He also provokes Ayman Abu Aita, identified in the film as a “terrorist group leader.” According to news reports, Ayman Abu Aita is threatening to take legal action against Cohen, who allegedly duped him. The irony of someone thinking that suicide bombing of innocent people is O.K. on the one hand, while a fictional depiction of love in a film is terrible is lost on Ayman Abu Aita. His lawsuit will have to wait in line. Lots of people have tried to sue Cohen, claiming he misrepresented himself and the true nature of his last two films. You can believe that Cohen is entirely innocent in this matter or not, but the fact remains that numerous legal claims have been made.
That isn't the only problem with Cohen's films. There is a problem with determining what is real and what is staged for these films. In a sense, everything is staged, but some spontaneity also seems to occur in scenes like the Ron Paul episode or the karate lesson, or the religious homosexual counseling and others. There is a military training scene where Cohen constantly disobeys commands and insults his superiors. It is hard to believe that the military wasn't in on the joke to some degree. While some of Cohen's jokes fall flat as a pancake, others are very funny. It seemed to me the success rate of the jokes was about 50 percent. I saw this in a near-empty theater, so I couldn't gauge the audience reaction except for myself, but I was laughing some of the time.
Cohen pushes the limits of sexual jokes to the extreme with a talking penis, penis gymnastics, anal bleaching, sex at a swinger party and a gross pantomime of oral and anal sex acts at a fortune telling session. Some of this stuff is just awkward and embarrassing. Cohen's greatest gift may be his knack for annoying people and goading them into embarrassing reactions. One thing you have to say about Cohen is that he has no pride. He will descend to the lowest level imaginable for a joke. Whether or not you want to go all the way down with Cohen is up to you, but be warned, he does go to extremes. This film is probably yet another bit of fallout from that blight on civilization known as reality television. God help us all. On the whole, this film was not as funny or as successful as “Borat” was. I'll give it a marginal thumbs up, with numerous reservations. It makes a nice companion piece to a popular right wing religious film called “A Nation Adrift” which makes the argument that homophobia is what made America great, and that the evils of slavery and genocide against native Americans are hardly worth mentioning compared to the monstrous Satanic evil of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Brüno rates a C+.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.