Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I was not a big fan of Borat, but I was able to at least see the comedic mastery at work. Sacha Baron Cohen pulled off such a pervasive blurring the line between reality and illusion that he seemed to be channeling Andy Kauffman. Borat was a little outrageous for me at parts, but I was able to understand how funny the uncomfortable moments could be. This time out, Cohen continues his quest of bringing out the worst in everyone he sees be embodying his third major alternate ego- Bruno- a flamboyantly homosexual Austrian.

Essentially the movie loosely follows Bruno's attempts to become a star after being disgraced as a fashion reporter at Milan. He travels to Hollywood to try acting (including one very funny scene featuring him as an extra), to try pushing his own pilot, to try charity, and just about any celebrity stunt he can come up with.

There are some moments in the movie (a few) that are uproariously funny. The funniest moments, however, are not because of his persona, but the parts when he has to do as little as possible to drag responses from his interviewees. The highlight was a slightly disturbing casting call for babies, in which the stage parents said they would agree to put their babies through virtually anything. This had nothing to do with the Bruno character, but instead was strictly about the audacity these people had. That's where the movie shone.

Unfortunately, most of the movie consisted of Cohen acting ever more outrageous to elicit reactions from people. Unlike Borat, which is comparably tame, Bruno had to go far and beyond what almost any individual could put up with- then paint the naïfs he interviews as homophobes. I'd venture to say they're more phobic of his annoying antics.

He continues to blur the lines between genuine reactions and stage. There was one hilarious scene in which he brings his adopted African baby featured prominently in the trailers on to a talk show. I appreciated this as it lampooned the talk show culture and used the absurdities normally found on these shows against it. Unfortunately the credibility begins to unravel as the particular show he was on was canceled 13 years ago. Whether it was wholly staged with the audience being in on it or not, i don't know. But the simple fact that two different actors played his adopted baby, makes this movie feel like it's trying a whole lot harder than Borat.

I'm not sure what Cohen is trying to say with this movie. The antisemitism that defined Borat had a comedic irony considering Cohen's orthodox Jewish upbringing. Bruno's character, is a further departure from Cohen himself. His flamboyant actions almost pale in comparison to the obnoxiously phony Austrian accent. If he's trying to point out the rottenness in all of us, I found myself feeling for those he came into contact with- including a pitiable Ron Paul who was suckered into an interview that would have made anyone walk out.

Borat had that sort of effortless comedic timing. He was awfully offensive, but you were able to (sort of) dismiss it as ignorant innocence. The "He's not from around here- their customs are different" mentality really went a long way in that movie. And despite his detestable behavior, he was endearing in a way. Bruno, on the other hand, is simply annoying. I feel that it's not his flamboyant persona that actually gets to people, but it's his abrasive aggressiveness. This visible effort to get a reaction turned off not only his interviewees, but it turned me off as well.


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