MONKEY REVIEW: Bruno

July 11, 2009

brunoMy very short review: Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s followup to Borat, isn’t as successful a satire as its predecessor, but it’s still frequently hilarious. As with Borat, Bruno is a combination of scripted comedy and improvisatory sequences where Cohen inserts his character into real life situations, with some inspired results. Its 88 minute running time flies by, even though by the last third, the movie has run out of steam. The startling last sequence, set at a cage fight, does end things on a memorable note. Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has come out strongly against Bruno, however, stating that the movie “reinforces negative stereotypes and ‘decreases the public’s comfort with gay people.'” In defense of the movie, I felt that what was being satirized, with results that are often funny and disturbing in equal parts, is the American public’s ready acceptance of virtually any gay stereotype as truth, and in the context of the movie, their startlingly virulent and sometimes utterly violent response to Cohen’s provocations, which are taken seriously no matter how completely absurd and outrageous they become (and since Cohen is a man totally unashamed of his body, it can get pretty outrageous). Cohen’s character, Bruno, is an Austrian fashion show host, flamboyantly gay to a surrealistic extreme, and he uses him not to just send up American homophobia, but reality and talk shows and celebrity culture. Cohen is a pretty fearless comic actor, putting himself on numerous occasions where he’s in danger of actual physical harm. Alas, the quality of the movie is only sporadically on par with that level of fearlessness. Additionally, Cohen may have run into a quandary that fellow satirist Dave Chappelle apparently ran into with his show: When you’re using stereotypes to send up stereotypes, at what point are you giving your audience permission to laugh at the very stereotypes you are satirizing? A perhaps unintended consequence of Bruno is to raise this question anew. I did find Bruno funny, hopefully for the right reasons, if you liked Borat, odds are you will enjoy Bruno, too.

MONKEY RATING: TWO MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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