Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brüno review

Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles are back with the follow up to 2006's surprisingly successful Borat. Does Brüno succeed with the same format that worked for Borat, or should this character from Da Ali G Show have been left alone?

As said, Brüno is the third, and presumably final film adaption of a character from the Channel 4 / HBO program, Da Ali G Show, following 2002's Ali G Indahouse and 2006's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The latter of which was also directed by Larry Charles, and I think it really shows this time around.

Where Borat was about a seemingly innocent man trying to make it big in America, albeit with a misguided understanding of the nation, Brüno attempts to follow the same story, though this time it stars a provocative, gay Austrian fashion TV host who is blacklisted from broadcast in his home country after a series of unfortunate events. Because of this, Brüno decides to fly to Los Angeles in order to become a world famous celebrity... at least that seems to be the point at first.

The premise is just one of a few things about Brüno that bothered me. First off, Brüno's story basically parallels that of Borat; character comes to America, has some hits a misses, utterly fails, companion leaves, time skip, big comeback, happy ending. I don't think that's spoiling anything, but the story just doesn't feel as creative the second time around. Also, as fans of the Da Ali G Show (including myself) probably noticed by now, the appearance of Brüno has completely changed from that of the original:

Left: Brüno from Da Ali G Show; Right: Brüno now.

The film offers no official explanation for this, though I assume it had to do with people actually knowing who the character was thanks to the success of Borat. And while personality-wise Brüno is still the same arrogant, flamboyant, and absurdly fashionable Austrian, the appearance change definitely makes the character feel different, and as a fan of the original show that bothered me. For fans of Borat though, I don't think Brüno will be as memorable of character, what with the lack of one liners or anything truly unique about him.

But all's not bad; because yes, the film is funny, there's no denying that; if you thought Borat made people look ignorant and/or stupid, just wait till you see Brüno interviewing parents about using their children for absurd photo shoots... it's scary really. I mean, a lot of the humor is very crude; if not for some black bars on screen this surely would have been an NC-17 film instead of an R rated film. That's a serious warning to parents planning on letting their kids watch this, trust me; let's put it this way, Dr. Manhattan's member wasn't spinning around on-screen in Watchmen, and even that was too much for some people. In short, if Borat intended to show the cultural ignorance of people, Brüno aims to not only do the same, but exploit people's homophobia as well; if you planned to see this movie, you probably know what you're getting into anyways.

With all of the characters from Ali G represented now, I'm more curious to see where Sacha Baren Cohen and Larry Charles go from here, if anywhere. Overall though, Brüno is certainly a funny film in its own right, but the humor is certainly very subjective, especially depending on your views of absurdly crude humor and homosexual acts. As a fan of Da Ali G Show and the Borat film however, I'm a little off-put by the change in the character and the unoriginal story; but in the end I did enjoy the film, but not as much as the last time I saw it, when it was called Borat.

Overall Score: 7.5/10

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