Cohen says “vassup” to Hollywood in vulgar, funny Br’no

by Glen Baity

Cohen says ‘vassup’ to Hollywood in vulgar, funny BrünoSacha BaronCohen faced twobig challenges inmaking his followupto 2006’s greatsuccess, Borat.First, the “Ali GShow” mastermindhad to find enoughmarks who hadn’tencounteredhis previouscharacters, whichcouldn’t have been easy in a yearwhen jagshemash was the word oneveryone’s lips. Second, he had tosurvive all the lawsuits the film earnedhim.Done and done. Now, the most-suedactor in modern comedy returns withhis third alter ego, Brüno, and he’sbringing his suitcase full of sex toyswith him. The film is Cohen’s effortto one-up himself, no mean feat whenyour last outing featured a nakedwrestling match in a crowded hotelballroom. Against considerable odds,he’s mostly successful.The fish-out-of-water mockumentaryfollows the arc of Borat almost exactly.When his hit Austrian television show,“Funkyzeit mit Bruno,” is canceled,our hero funnels his energy intothe pursuit of American celebrity.Accompanied by his adoring assistant(Gustaf Hammarsten), he sets out forthe City of Angels and the guaranteedfame and fortune therein.In his American journey, which onceagain takes him from the big city tothe deep, deep South, he’ll find plentyof confused bystanders, credulouscelebrities and hostile yokels. If youfound this stuff funny in Borat and DaAli G Show before it, you’re almostcertain to find something here toentertain you. It follows that if youdon’t enjoy seeing unsuspecting peopleduped, this is not your movie.Cohen is just as much a provocateuras an entertainer, so even if you’re notlaughing the whole time, you’ll oftenfind yourself in slack-jawed disbelief.Among the unprecedented gags: Brunomeets and is almost killed by the headof a terrorist cellwhen he tells himthat “Your kingOsama looks likea dirty wizard”;crashes a WestboroBaptist Churchprotest whiledressed in bondagegear; attempts tobroker a peacedeal betweenIsrael andPalestine; andadopts an Africanbaby, becauseAngelina andMadonna bothhave them.Compared tothis stuff, muchof Borat seemspositivelyquaint.It’sthereforetempting toview Brünoas shock forshock’s sake,and indeed,someof it —particularly the running joke withthe adopted baby — goes wide of themark. But the vast majority of the filmis biting and funny, a poke in the ribsfor a society driven nuts by sexualityissues and vapid celebrities. Points toBorat director Larry Charles for onceagain managing the difficult task ofmaking a solid comedy based on aseries of five minute skits. He has goodmaterial to work with — I think “DaAli G Show” is one of the funniestthings that has ever been on television,and the fact that I still loved Boratafter it attained near-Austin Powerslevels of cultural saturation speakshighly of the film’s quality.Gay rights groups are justifiablyconcerned by the film, but I thinkthe character, vulgar and shallow ashe is, will ultimately do more goodthan harm. Much like Borat was axenophobe’s idea of a foreigner,Bruno is a severe homophobe’s ideaof a gay person. Theself-styled fashionista ishypersexual, Europeanand confident that everystraight man in the worldjust hasn’t met the rightboy. He’s a ridiculouscaricature, a compositeof a thousand negativehomosexual stereotypes.When those stereotypesare bundled together andshoved in your face, itunderscores just howludicrous they are andholds them up to mockery.That’s the genius of it:Cohen isn’t laughing atgay people. He’s laughingat anyone who could be fooled by suchan obvious parody as Bruno.I’ve said before that Cohen isone of the few comic actors todaywho really takes chances with hiscomedy, andBrüno ups the antein every way imaginable. He’s notafraid to alienate whole sections ofhis audience, which makes his hitsharder and his misses forgivable. Isit offensive? Definitely. Boring? Ishdon’t think so.
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