Bruno

There is so much homo heat in Brüno that it could turn Brad Pitt gay, maybe even Santa Claus. But I digress. After bringing Borat to the screen in 2006 to mock the ignorant, racist, misogynist, gun-loving, warmongering heart of America, Sacha Baron Cohen returns with Brüno to mock the shallow, consumerist, attention-craving, celeb-worshipping, gay-fearing heart of American pop culture. Thank you, we needed that. Make the shameless, sidesplitting Brüno numero uno on your funny-time list. You'll hoot and holler as it strips down its targets and sticks it to them, hardcore. Baron Cohen is the pure, untamed id of movie comedy. Once again this Cambridge- educated Brit from a devout Jewish family is using a foreigner as his eyes and ears. As you know from watching Da Ali G Show, Brüno is a gay, butt-bleaching TV reporter from Austria. Brüno isn't shy about having creative sex with his pygmy assistant, Diesel, who is machine-propelled onto Brüno's donger, which I swear I saw talking. I couldn't trust my eyes after watching Brüno sip champagne out of Diesel's ass. Actually, the bottle was in Diesel's ass. And my mind will never erase the sight of Brüno using a medium to make sexual contact with the spirit of his first love, the deceased half of Milli Vanilli. To watch Baron Cohen mime a blow job from first suck to sperm spray is enough to have Marcel Marceau applauding from the grave.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. When Brüno is fired for wearing a disastrous all-Velcro ensemble at a fashion show, Diesel dumps him and Brüno heads to Los Angeles to make his name in cable-TV journalism as host of Brüno's A-List Celebrity Max Out. Sadly, he only attracts the likes of Paula Abdul and La Toya Jackson, who balk when asked to eat sushi off the naked body of a fat Mexican day laborer. Brüno takes it out on his new lovesick assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten), a pasty Swede who violates Brüno's idea of hotness.

Baron Cohen takes justifiable relish in ambushing the gullible and the guilty — clueless stars eager to latch on to a fashionable charity (since George Clooney has Darfur, Brüno wants Darfive), mothers who'd starve their kids for a modeling gig, kinky swingers into all kinds of sex except same-sex, bogus efforts to bring peace to the Middle East (Brüno confuses Hamas with hummus), and the adoption of babies as accessories (Brüno swaps his iPod for little black OJ and loses custody until he throws in a MacBook Pro). And you haven't lived till you see Bono, Elton, Sting, Snoop Dogg and Chris Martin sing Brüno's "We Are the World" anthem. The lyrics urging North and South Korea to stop fighting since they both look Chinese haunt me still.

The hilarity is stratospherically outrageous, producing gags that pull you up short. Baron Cohen, who wrote the script with Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer and Jeff Schaffer, saves his heavy artillery for intolerance: a Christian specialist in scaring gays straight; a "God Hates Fags" protest march; a politician (Ron Paul) who spits out the word "queer"; a crowd roaring for blood as the newly macho Brüno bashes gays in a fight-club cage. Then Lutz walks in. Can Brüno redeem himself by loving a man who is unattractive and unfashionable? I'll never tell.

What I will say is that Brüno, directed by Borat's Larry Charles, who stays admirably allergic to slick, is a comic call to arms. It uses humor to draw blood. Maybe Brüno is more scattershot than Borat. Maybe its cringiest moments will soon be trumped by reality TV (have you seen Jon & Kate Plus 8?). But Baron Cohen is on to something essential about our debased culture. His satire is Swiftian — crude, profane, fearless in using ridicule to bite hypocrisy on the ass. Like Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Brüno defies you not to see yourself in its funhouse mirror. And then dares you to laugh it off.

From The Archives Issue 352: September 17, 1981
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