Sacha Baron Cohen has reached the zenith of his satirical interview technique. There’s nowhere else to go. When he first appeared on British television in his Ali G guise, the possibilities were endless. Nobody knew who he was, and people gave themselves over fully to his ridiculous interviews. But Ali G grew tired quickly, so to keep things fresh, Cohen created Borat, the Kazakh television interviewer and Bruno, the gay Austrian fashion icon. With Larry Charles, Cohen took Borat to the big screen in 2006, and in 2009, it’s Bruno’s turn. Borat was a huge success, but can lightning strike twice?
Bruno fronts the show Funkyzeith Mit Bruno, a fashion show where the titular character interviews the movers and shakers in the fashion world. But after a disastrous incident involving a Velcro suit at the Milan Fashion Week, Bruno is fired from his show, and loses his Philipino midget boyfriend. So, in an attempt to get back to the top, Bruno and his assistant, Lutz, hit the United States in order to propel Bruno back to the top of the celebrity ladder.
Plot details are really play second fiddle to the real draw from these films. And that’s the awkward situations Cohen sets up to play with his targets. And after seeing Bruno, it’s really amazing how far some people will go before they snap and can’t continue with the interviews. Borat set up some pretty outrageous situations. And got some pretty decent laughs out of them. But Bruno takes things to a whole other level. There are things in the film that leave you agape with shock that Cohen had the balls (no pun intended) to pull them off. There’s no question that he is pretty committed to his art and will gladly sacrifice his own safety in order to carry out an idea.
But is the film funny? When the film attempts to drive plot forward, no. Obviously, there has to be a plot, no matter how thin, to keep the film from just being a series of increasingly awkward interviews and situations. These moments can feel a little contrived when put next to the real-world situations. But when those situations arise, the film hits it’s stride. And when at these moments, it’s outrageous, shocking, and hilarious. There is one moment in the film that was so funny, I can’t remember a time when I laughed harder in the cinema. I won’t give anything away, but I had tears of laughter running down my face at the sheer craziness of the situation, and the thoughts that must have been running through the people who were the targets of the prank.
There’s not much that can be said about the film without giving too much away. It’s funnier than Borat, and at times, funnier than most written comedies. But reality is always funnier or more shocking than fiction. When the film deals with fiction, it’ll make you chuckle at best. But when it comes to the ‘reality,’ Bruno will have you cringing in horror and guffawing with laughter.