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BRUNO

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten
Director: Larry Charles
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 82 Minutes
Release Date: November 17, 2009

“Your finger is in my alley!”

“Not yet.”

Film ***

Three years ago, actor/comedian Sacha Baron Cohen took the world by storm with his groundbreaking comedy, Borat. It was a remarkably funny movie that was also bold, especially in how it showed actual people revealing their true colors on camera as a result of interacting with an anti-Semitic TV reporter from Kazakhstan. Now, Cohen is back for seconds with Bruno, which applies the same sort of scenario, only now with an even more outrageous character creation of his.

With Borat being one of the funniest films this decade, Bruno suffers a bit by comparison in that it simply can’t measure up to the surprises brought forth by the earlier film’s innovative concept. Having Borat being placed amongst everyday Americans helped produce one memorably uncomfortable gag after another. Bruno essentially takes that same concept, only this time the movie feels way more obviously scripted in parts than Borat did.

But the movie does not fail as a result. In my mind, Cohen and director Larry Charles fully acknowledged that this would be something of a retread of Borat. So in order to overshadow that notion, one crucial thing had to be done; up the ante on the vile and crude elements of the previous film, thus making this new one the single most offensive movie in the history of cinema.

And wouldn’t you know it…they succeeded admirably, as Bruno is quite honestly the most insane, over the top and offensive comedy I’ve ever seen. The best analogy to sum it all up is this: Bruno is to Borat what Crank 2 is to Crank. That’s the level of craziness we’re talking about here, although it must be mentioned that Bruno is certainly NO Crank 2.

Cohen, once again, fully immerses himself into the title character which, like Borat, originated on Da Ali G Show.  Bruno is a gay Austrian fashion guru and the host of the top German-language fashion show, Funkyzeit. After an embarrassing incident during a hot yearly fashion event ends his television career in Europe, Bruno sets his sights on Hollywood, where he plans on not only making a career comeback but becoming the biggest celebrity in the world.

From this point, the shock meter slowly rises with each progressing minute, as if it couldn’t go any higher before Bruno arrives in Hollywood. In order to garner himself attention, he does everything from constructing random talk show topics as whether C-list celebrities should keep or abort their babies to trying to seduce politician Ron Paul into a sex tape scenario, since anyone with a sex tape immediately gets famous. And if that wasn’t enough, Bruno manages to adopt his very own African baby, which he actually swapped for an iPod.

As shocked as you most likely are by reading those details, there are even more outrageous moments to be seen in the movie’s brief 82 minutes. We also see Bruno interview some of the worst parents in modern history, as we see what they’re willing to do to their children in exchange for the slightest bit of fame. And in the film’s most hilarious bit, he journeys down south to take part in some National Guard training, as well as undergo some attempted converting from his gay lifestyle from several ministers.

Though flawed in parts and nowhere near the sheer brilliant lunacy established by Borat, Bruno is nonetheless a memorably hilarious experience. It’s willingness to push the shock envelope as far as it can go definitely overshadows the fact that we’re essentially watching the same formula all over again. Recommended…but do watch with extreme caution.  

Video ***

Much like Borat, the documentary-like aesthetic brought to this film won’t exactly result in a visually amazing presentation, but this DVD presentation from Universal does get the job done nonetheless. This definitely had a much higher budget than the first movie, and as a result the camera work is of higher quality. There’s also a lot less grainy imagery this time around (in fact, it only appears during an extended night vision sequence). Considering I expected less in terms of all around quality, the presentation is overall most decent.

Audio **1/2

Pretty much what you’d expect from film of this type, as it is mainly dialogue oriented and not much else. Dialogue and occasional music playback are both handled quite well, though everything seems mainly limited to front range channels. Basically, the quality is good enough considering what all it’s working with.

Features ***

The quantity of extras isn’t that spectacular, but I must give bonus points for the main highlight amongst the features. The enhanced commentary with Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles is most terrific and points the two will stop the movie to point out all the lunacy and trouble that went into specific scenes, also allowing some Picture-in-Picture behind the scenes footage to appear. The fact that this is being offered on a regular DVD release is rather neat, as it could possibly give people a hint at what almost every Blu-ray release contains. As for the rest of the extras, we get a collection of Alternative Scenes, Extended Scenes and Deleted Scenes, as well as an interview with Lloyd Robinson (Bruno’s unsuspecting Hollywood agent).

Summary:

Bruno is truly jaw-dropping in its shock value, and for that reason alone it’s worth checking out…if you think you can stomach it. I only hope Sacha Baron Cohen’s next project is just as biting, but doesn’t repeat the same formula.

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