Review: BRÜNO

Here’s what you need to know about Brüno: you will laugh and you will see lots of full-frontal penis. Will you be offended? Depends on your sensibilities. I wasn’t (I expected the raunchiness) though I’ll admit to some squirming and groaning.

bruno w. OJSacha Baron Cohen plays a flamboyant fashionista from Austria who’s obsessed with fame. After becoming persona none-gayer for literally crashing a fashion show, Brüno goes to Los Angeles seeking stardom despite having no marketable skills. He looks for an agent by (atrociously) reading scenes from Jerry Maguire, tries adopting an African baby to use as accessory, attempts to trap Ron Paul (the 2008 presidential candidate) into making a sex tape with him, and even travels to the Middle East, begging terrorists to kidnap him so he’d receive worldwide attention.

It’s hard to review this movie because it’s difficult to pin down. It takes aim at many targets—homophobia, gay “converters,” vacuous celebs—with varying degrees of success. The casting session Brüno holds for a photo shoot of hot babies reveals the parents’ disturbing willingness to subject their kids to anything, even liposuction on a 30-pound baby, just to get the job.

But this kind of desperation for fame—and Brüno is no different from the parents—is old news. People like this are all over reality TV these days. It’s hard to satirize them when they’re doing a pretty decent job humiliating themselves. So, while some of the bits are very funny, they don’t exactly feel fresh. And the surprise superstar cameos don’t have as much punch as I’d like.

My feelings for the movie may have fluctuated from scene to scene but one thought remained constant: Cohen is a brilliant actor. His transformation into Brüno is as impressive as Sean Penn’s into Harvey Milk, though I’m hardly suggesting an Oscar for Cohen since his performance is a one-note gag instead of a complex human being.

Still, doing what he does requires total commitment and a large dose of bravery because he puts himself in real danger at times. While in the Middle East, Brüno confuses Hamas for hummus and tells a very unamused terrorist that “your king Osama looks like a dirty wizard and a homeless Santa.” In Arkansas, he pushes a mob almost to the rioting point by doing something extremely inappropriate at a cage fight. Brüno may never get any respect but I had to give some to Cohen for his all-out approach to making a point or just making us laugh.

Nerd verdict: Brüno is full-frontal funny if not completely fresh

Editor’s note: The question of how much this movie is staged vs. real has been oft-mentioned in other articles. Check back next week for my interview with Lloyd Robinson, the agent in the movie whom Brüno wants to represent him. Robinson gives a detailed account of how he was approached, what he knew and when he knew it.



  • Reply
    July 9, 2009 at 5:46 am

    And you thought I deserved a medal for sitting through Revenge of the Fallen? No, it’s you PCN. I often wonder if SBC is not a natural evolution of what Andy Kaufman started awhile back. Thanks for the review, PCN (and the full frontal warning ;-).

    • Reply
      July 9, 2009 at 10:31 am

      Well, I think you should be prepared because there’s a LOT of it (and other body parts) on display. I sat kinda close to the screen so now I know how Eminem felt at the MTV Movie Awards!

      As for similarities to Kaufman, he was also pretty committed to his characters but I think he was less accessible to the general public. There were times when I’d watch Kaufman and not understand where he was headed with a performance piece. With Cohen, you see pretty clearly why he’s doing what he’s doing.

    • Reply
      July 9, 2009 at 10:48 am

      Revenge of the Fallen wasn’t that bad, was it? Maybe it has to do with the fact that I grew up watching Transformers (and The Thundercats!) but I enjoyed it.

      I wouldn’t give it an Oscar in my wildest dreams -perhaps except for SFX- but I like to go watch movies with the only thought of enjoying them. And I did. Of course, the company doesn’t hurt!

      • Reply
        July 10, 2009 at 2:15 pm

        I briefly mentioned why I disliked Revenge of the Fallen here. If Michael Bay hadn’t gone so overboard, like in the better first film, I don’t think I’d have reacted as badly. The actual SFX (and the Autobots) are the only good thing in the movie, IMO. But, don’t let me stop Transformers fans from making up their own minds. Saludos.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Your review of this is well thought out and nicely put……I have to say that this (and NINE) are the most anticipated movies (for me) THIS YEAR! ….So excited!

    • Reply
      July 9, 2009 at 10:35 am

      Thanks, Harmony! Your saying it was well thought out is funny because I kept thinking, “Where do I start? How do I review this crazy movie?!” while writing it.

      Would love to hear your thoughts after you see it. Then check back next week for my interview with the agent in the movie. What he said about how Cohen and company pulled off their stunt with him is fascinating.

    • Reply
      July 9, 2009 at 8:03 pm

      I’m with you Harmony! This movie is gonna be great! Sacha Baron Cohen shows his ….um, member? Now I’m on Cloud 9! See you in line, H!

  • Reply
    Mrs. Catherine in Clifton, Virginia
    July 9, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I think I’ll be offended but…to be able to laugh is always an important part of my life…I hope this movie is having the same “level of reality” as “Borat”. Thanks, PCN, for the “sensitive” and good review!

    • Reply
      July 9, 2009 at 10:52 am

      Hi Mrs. Catherine!

      I’m pretty sure you’ll laugh whether you like it or not. I laughed through the whole thing, loudly, and feared being obnoxious to those around me until I realized they were laughing just as hard. Some things were definitely not up my alley (while literally up Brüno’s–oy) but when it’s Cohen, you have to expect that.

      According to someone I talked to who was in the movie, his scenes and reactions are authentic since he really did not know who Cohen/Brüno was (let’s just say he’s outside the target demographic).

  • Reply
    July 9, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never been a fan of Cohen. Call me picky, but -even though he sometimes makes me laugh- I find a lot of his jokes to be dull and a little tacky.

    I think I will be seeing the movie, but I will wait until I can rent it or watch it on HBO.

    I don’t know. It doesn’t get me excited, at least not at the level which “NINE” or “The Invention of Lying” has.

    • Reply
      July 9, 2009 at 11:45 am

      You say you’re picky but enjoyed Transformers? Hmmm…(Teasing!)

      Childhood memories can have a powerful hold over us and make us enjoy all kinds of things that other people would find inexplicable. Two Christmases ago, a friend gave me an old Bionic Woman doll he found on eBay. It has ratty hair and mismatched shoes (pumps, though she’s supposed to have sneakers on) but I yelped like he gave me a brick of gold.

      I loved that show as a kid and had a doll like that but had lost it. As I put the replacement up on my mantel in a prominent position, my husband was scratching his head but luckily, he tolerates my cheesiness.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Geezzz, I figured it was more of the same. Don’t get it. I find him so one note. He’s like one of those SNL skits that get made into a movie without any thought behind it.

    I suppose he has his audience out there, but he won’t be getting my $10.50.

    Can’t believe he got Isla. Then, again, Marilyn Manson does well with the ladies too.

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