Underwhelmingly Bruno

July 19, 2009 at 4:03 am Leave a comment

Went to see Bruno this hot Saturday afternoon. It was an impulse decision; I was on my way home from buying earphones when I passed by the cinema. It beckoned me, as it had beckoned me for the past few days. This time my resistance crumbled and I entered through the glass doors, climbed the rickety stairs and plopped down in the front row of the balcony.

The lights dimmed, the previews started: Seth Rogen in “Funny People”, and the others, well, now I can’t even remember their names so obviously they made an impression. Finally, Bruno showed up, clean-shaven, his perfectly coiffed, dyed, hair, his fake Austrian accent. All in all, though, as the movie progressed, I couldn’t help feeling, well, underwhelmed. It wasn’t that any of it was particularly disappointing, but the overall effect was less than what I had hoped for.

Don’t get me wrong, I chuckled a few times. Like when Bruno interviewed a Jewish professor and a Palestinian political activist and got confused between hummus and Hamas. Or when he informed a pastor whose aim it is to convert gays that he had really excellent lips for giving head. And I was suitably disgusted when Bruno interviewed mothers and fathers for the chance to have their children appear alongside his “adopted” son in a video and it became glaringly clear that these parents would stop at nothing to get their kids a chance at fame (and money).

But I couldn’t help wondering how many of the situations were mere setups. And what is the point of it all? Is he arguing for gay equality? Hardly. His goal is much simpler: to entertain. To entertain at all cost, even if it gets him into very awkward situations. And there’s a place for that — as attested to by the sheer numbers of people his films seem to draw. But it also feels like he’s grabbing at the dregs here.

Baron Cohen has fashioned himself as a modern day version of Voltaire’s Candide. A fool who through his faux innocence exposes the ignorance, greed and underlying prejudices of a corrupt world. Unfortunately, “Bruno” is less successful at this task than “Borat” was. Why? Because the people Baron Cohen baits are surprisingly tolerant of his antics. Even the Middle Eastern leader of a terrorist organization, who politely but firmly encourages Baron Cohen through a translator to leave after he declares that “King Osama” looks like a “dirty wizard” and should lose the beard.

At the end of the day, the joke kind of feels like it’s on Baron Cohen. He pushes further and further only because people demand it of him. I’ll be interested to see what Baron Cohen plans on doing next. Surely he has reached a level of fame that makes his approach virtually impossible to replicate. What will he do next? That to me is more interesting than the film Bruno turned out to be.


Entry filed under: Film & Television.

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