Borat was most definitely the cultural icon of 2006. He was a clueless foreigner traveling around America, exposing xenophobic ignorance and prejudice through interviews and stunts. Borat was not just an excellent comedy, but it was brilliant social commentary as well.
On first glance, it would seem that Bruno is trying something similar. The flamboyantly gay Austrian is making a journey around the states, and you would imagine his end game is to reveal the massive amount of homophobia that we all know exists in the country.
But while Borat worked as both comedy and commentary, Bruno only grasps the former, and just barely at that.
Bruno is to comedy what Hostel is to horror. The purpose of Hostel was allegedly to scare, but really was just content to shock, something much easier to accomplish. Bruno is much the same way, yes, you’ll laugh as at times it’s physically impossible not to, but mainly your jaw will just be hanging open in awe of how this movie escaped with a mere R-rating.
Lesson taught: Don’t give the gays your kids!
As a whole, Bruno feels a lot more staged than Borat. It’s easy to tell which scenes are definitely real (I don’t believe Ron Paul is that great of an actor) while others most definitely have to be fake (a swingers party where are the participants willing engage in sex acts on camera with their faces unblurred? I don’t think so). The same goes for a Paula Abdul interview, an army boot camp session and many other skits that just don’t feel legitimate.
It kind of takes the fun out of things when you know that certain situations have been forced, and though Borat did it too (Pam Anderson was in on it) it seems far more prevalent in this film, probably because it’s hard to imagine anyone talking to Bruno with two cameras pointed at him and thinking it was anything other than a gag.
So what types of ignorance are revealed in the film? Surprisingly enough, it’s nothing to do with homophobia. Memorable quotes include a girl working as a charity PR rep pronouncing Darfur “Da-far,” a gay conversion pastor going off about how women are annoying, but we as men need to put up with that annoyance to better themselves, and finally a potentially shocking scene involving stage parents agreeing to submit their children to high speed driving, harmful chemicals and lit phosphorous in order to land a photoshoot with Bruno’s adopted child. I have a hard time believing that last bit was real, because if it was, I imagine a bunch of lawsuits are forthcoming.
As for America’s homophobia? Well, the problem I (and apparently GLAAD) has with this movie is that Bruno is every American’s worst fear about what a gay man is. Bruno sneaks into a straight guy’s tent naked during the night and propositions sex, he parades down the street handcuffed to another man done up in bondage gear and worst of all, he shows a picture of him holding his adopted child in a hot tub while naked men frolic around him. That last segment ended with child services coming to take his kid away. If I were gay, I would imagine I wouldn’t find this film merely annoying, but that it’d make me downright furious.
Don’t let the gays near your horses!
The way people in the movie react to Bruno’s flamboyance isn’t at all unexpected or revealing. In fact, most people found in the film almost tolerant to a fault (a pastor sits quietly as a Bruno tells him he has “blow-job lips,” a psychic waits patiently for ten minutes as Bruno perfoms a mimed sex act on a “summoned” dead acquaintance) and people only react when he pushes them to the absolute extreme (what would you do if you were approached in bed by a naked man at 3 am holding condoms? ). The final climactic scene of the film makes the startling discovery that a room full of Alabamans who came to see a cage fight don’t actually want to witness two men make out with each other in their underwear. Stop the ****ing presses.
And that scene alone sums up Bruno. It’s undeniably hilarious when the rock music gives way to Celine Dion, and the looks on the crowds faces change from bloodlust to horror and even tears, but there’s no other purpose to the scene other than eliciting a reaction of pure shock.
People will tell me I’m taking this movie too seriously, and I should just enjoy it as the gay version of Jackass that is essentially is. And if viewed strictly on that level, Bruno is a success, but after Borat deftly blended silliness and commentary, I was hoping Bruno would be able to do the same thing.
But that’s not the case, and though Bruno would seem to hurt the gays more than help them, the effect will ultimately be negligible as any homophobe who’s seen a poster or watched a trailer won’t get within 100 yards of the theater to experience the film’s full array of raunchiness. But I know there’s an arena full of Alabamans, a studio full of Texans and an assortment of other people all over the country who had their prejudices justified by Bruno, and rightfully so.
Ultimately Bruno is funny in the most primal sense of the word, and if that’s all you require, than I highly recommend it. But those looking for Borat 2 won’t find it, and I just hope Sacha Baron Cohen has another character left in him to make the third chapter in this saga a redeeming one.
2.5 out of 5 stars
To me, this is funnier than anything in the entire movie. A gold-plated Chanel RPG. Come on!