This review is incomplete because I missed the last 20 minutes of “Bruno,” but from the hour that I did see, I got the gist of it. Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest raunchy romp takes everything that made “Borat” work and throws it out the window. He replaces it with graphic male nudity and over-the-top and exaggerated homosexual sex scenes that made the bulk of the audience cringe in my theater. The movie has some funny moments, but they are incredibly brief and don’t make up for the other disturbing content that fills the bulk of the movie. “Bruno” makes “Borat” look like a Disney cartoon, offending people of virtually any sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or social group.
Cohen’s character, Bruno, is a flamboyantly homosexual fashion reporter who comes to America after being disgraced in his home country of Austria. Once there, his glitzy nature collides with the harsh homophobic climate in some parts of the United States. He starts out in Los Angeles where he tries to get his own fashion show on television. This ultimately flops, but it leads him to try to discover what really makes a celebrity. The quest is where the movie is at its funniest, as Bruno tries to get involved in social concerns like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even talking to an actual terrorist group leader. The best moment comes when he talks to two young, air-headed starlets about the most trendy issues and organizations. But its second half deals exclusively with tackling the subject of homosexuality, and here it takes a turn for the worst. I think had the filmmakers not bungled the handling of the very sensitive subject, it would have been bearable even for someone like me who is not easily offended. However, it is just awkward and unsettling, and when the projector died in my theater with 20 minutes left, very few people were willing to see it out the very graphic end.
As I am writing this review, the movie has flopped at the box office and received dismal reception from fans. I think the main reason for this is that Americans are much more willing to laugh at their xenophobia like they did in “Borat” than they are at their homophobia. I admire Cohen for having the guts to make movies like “Bruno” that attempt to throw all of our fears out of the closet and poke fun at them, but this attempt falls flat on its face. If after reading this, you are still compelled to see “Bruno,” my advice would be to wait until it comes out on DVD, rent it on iTunes, go take your computer and sit alone in the closet and watch it alone to avoid the awkwardness of watching it with anyone with whom you want to have a normal relationship. For the best experience with the character, take a look at his in-character talk show appearances this summer, or watch the much funnier “Da Ali G Show” where you will see a much less vulgar Bruno. C- /