Sacha Baron Cohen conceived Ali-G and Borat as idiot-innocents to expose casual racism and xenophobia. Bruno is an idiot-innocent designed to shake out latent homophobia.
Next up: Baron Cohen in camp but convincing drag (Brenda? Bridget?) taking on institutionalised sexism…
Maybe not, but rather than evolve and set up a different gag, Baron Cohen continues to move sideways – tweaking his tried and trusted raw material until it’s surface-fresh.
As a movie, Bruno is funny, filthy and lands a few sharp punches on the noses of facile media whores, preening fashionistas, and bearpit talk-show hosts. But as a character who already feels vaguely familiar (catchphrases, stupid outfits, whipping-boy sidekick), 90-odd minutes in his company is a big ask.
Ali-G and Borat began life as bite-sized regular TV slots. Bruno has more or less arrived fully formed – but, as with his predecessors, less would definitely be more.
Baron Cohen has smartly tried to keep the conceit alive by refusing to do interviews out of character. But as a result, Bruno’s barbs have been blunted by over-exposure - the joke feels old barely half-way through.
Three years ago, Borat was a series of fused-together TV sketches that just about hung together as a feature. Bruno is like browsing through a bunch of YouTube videos – most of them individually hilarious, but stodgy and bloating in a single sitting.
Baron Cohen’s strength is in his suicidal commitment: taunting a cage-fighting crowd about their hetero credentials, graphically simulating analingus in front of a mortified ‘psychic’, interviewing the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs and insisting that Osama Bin Laden looks like “a homeless Santa Claus”…
But for every edgy showpiece stunt, there’s a clearly scripted (or at least pre-arranged) prank that clunks – and a cut to a pointless, filler sub-plot that tracks Bruno’s relationship with his dour handler.
The writing is tight and Baron Cohen breezes through the shonky sections on sheer audacity, but it’s a film of great bits – not a great film.
“Al Qaeda is so 2001!” Bruno informs the Al-Aqsa guy. Uhuh. And Bruno is all very 2006...
As phoney and frustrating as it is funny. Baron Cohen’s comedy-outsider schtick is slick but well and truly found out. The clothes may be new and more fabulous, but the emperor seriously needs to go shopping.
Log in using Facebook to share comments, games, status update and other activity easily with your Facebook feed.