Monday, July 13, 2009

Bruno: C-

Late on Friday night I tweeted/Facebook-status-updated: “Just watched Bruno, and it sucked.”

Since then, I’ve become slightly more appreciative of it—though only slightly. There are several legitimately funny episodes: scary stage parents, adopting foreign babies, and California PR wannabes among them. There’s also an ending that really just needs to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, many of the best parts appear in the trailers, so you’ve probably already seen them. Also, these funny bits were truly episodic. Any plot (of which there was very little) was simply a series of contrivances to get Bruno to the next ridiculous episode. Upon even the laziest of inspections, the movie makes no sense whatsoever.

And, far more unfortunately, I really couldn’t appreciate the odd funny episode because I was so turned off by the oft repeated joke that essentially made up the rest of the movie: gay guys like things in their butts. Yes, that is genius satirist Sacha Baron Cohen’s gift to us: sodomy joke after sex toy joke after S&M joke. I realize that Cohen’s trying to reflect homophobic America’s assumptions and fears back on us, but I paid a whopping $12.50 (I still can’t believe it costs that much to see a movie in New York, but that’s a different post) wanting to laugh. I have no problem being offended. In fact, I went into Bruno expecting to be offended. But I expected to be surprised and tickled, too, and that didn’t really happen. Repeating the same joke, and an obvious one at that, again and again simply felt lazy.

And, bad news for Sacha Baron Cohen, his schtick isn’t surprising anymore. I admit that seeing him catch people — both famous and not — acting indescribably bad made for some very, very funny moments. But it’s no longer unexpected. Borat was fresh because the wider audience (those who hadn’t seen his TV show) didn’t realize what was coming. Now we can all pretty much see the set up for what it is, making each subsequent payoff one of diminishing returns.

Also, in comparison with Borat, Bruno is simply a less likeable character. Many of the unsuspecting participants in Borat began with optimism and a desire to help this clueless foreigner. It was only when he crossed a line that people balked, and part of the joy was in watching that transformation. Bruno is unlikeable to me as a viewer and to most of the people whose paths he cross in the movie. There is no transformation in Bruno, just Bruno being an ass, people acting embarrassingly stupid, a something-up-your-butt joke, repeat.

I had high hopes for Bruno, so it’s really too bad that I can’t say kinder things about it. My best recommendation is to wait for the DVD and then fast forward through to the good stuff.


rena said...

I was buying a ticket for Food, Inc. today and the girl at the concession stand told an old man NOT to see Bruno. She said it was terribly offensive with graphic nudity. Who is getting fired tomorrow? :)