Rated R for pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language, 81 minutes
Rambling and flat, "Bruno" is a disappointing follow-up to "Borat"
Some believe that celebrity deaths come in three's. This summer, there will have been three-high profile comedies to have died a quick death at the box-office: First there was Will Ferrell's "Land of the Lost." Then a few weeks later Jack Black went down with "Year One." The casualty to fulfill this summer box-office failure trifecta will be Sacha Baron Cohen's painfully unfunny "Bruno," his follow-up to his sharp, original 2006 hit comedy "Borat." Unlike that ingenious, often outrageously funny film, "Bruno," based on one of Cohen's TV characters, is disjointed, dull and mostly laugh-free, leaning too much on shock-wave type of humor to generate laughs.
Cohen plays flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista Bruno, a late-night talk show host who has built up a modestly successful following. When he causes mayhem at a fashion show by showing up in a velcro jumpsuit, he's all but banned from the fashion scene. He criss-crosses the globe in hopes of becoming famous and maybe even finding true love. With a nerdish but loyal assistant named Lutz (Swedish actor Gustaf Hammarsten) in tow, they first go to L.A., then trek from the Middle East to the Deep South of the United States (including Dallas, Alabama and Arkansas) in one outrageous adventure to the next to try to make Bruno "uber" popular.
Tedious and tiresome, “Bruno” is mildly amusing at best and if you're expecting huge "Borat"-type laughs, you'll be greatly disappointed, maybe even bored. This is far less imaginative than "Borat” and lacks a fresh creative approach. Done in that film's same pointless/loose-faux documentary style, Baron Cohen has created a different character but essentially the same set up: cross the country and engage yourself in wild situations with real people to get their reaction. That shock-wave type of formula worked well in "Borat" because it seemed new, but in "Bruno" the witty playfulness of the earlier film has worn out (and very thin) with Cohen too often pushing the envelope to shock people into laughter, and unfortunately so. Much like “Borat,” the offensive nature of “Bruno” is evident in nearly every scene, but it doesn’t help when your material isn’t that funny to begin with (and Baron Cohen is quickly becoming a recognizable face).
Among the highlights: Bruno has gay sex (shocking, but in no way fun). He adopts a black baby, names it "O.J." and has a Jerry Springer-like talk show showdown with an African-American audience (briefly amusing and filmed in Dallas). The rest of his antics aren’t as memorable: Enlisting in the Army, goes hunting with hillbillies in Alabama, gets gay-to-straight conversion therapy, has a gay wresting match in Arkansas and has a wild fling with a naked dominatrix at a house full of swingers, all attempts for his character to achieve superstardom. Amusing yet slight, a few of these moments may elicit a chuckle or two but you'll be hard-pressed for any real laugh-out loud moments.
"Bruno" is only 81 minutes long, but there are too many rambling, laugh-free stretches that drag it out even longer, exposing the weakness of the material. The choppy, jumbled pace seemingly reveals that Baron Cohen and his "Borat" director Larry Charles either didn't have enough material or not enough of it was truly funny (one episode cut for obvious reasons - a joke played on LaToya Jackson), which may have many asking the same question frequently posed of Will Ferrell. Is he really that funny, or just overrated? Maybe so, but he assembles some huge music stars including Bono, Sting, Snoop Dogg and Elton John for a slapdash, badly executed charity anthem over the credits, a joke that’s as vapid as the rest of the movie.
"Bruno" may be the next "uber" disappointment, but many curiosity-seekers and “Borat” fans may come out to see what it’s all about. However, given the comedic talents of Sacha Baron Cohen, if “Bruno” completes the box-office failure trifecta it may be the summer's most unfortunate downfall. To promote the movie, Baron Cohen made a grand entrance in character at the MTV Movie Awards recently landing tush first in the face of rapper Eminem, causing quite a stir. Too bad “Bruno” the movie isn’t near as entertaining or fun, and may have trouble finding a vast audience to enjoy it.