Thursday, July 16, 2009
One of the most polarizing films of the past decade happens to be one of the most oft quoted films ever. Borat hit the states like a moustached sledgehammer to the proverbial Bible Belt of the American conciseness in what is not only an insightful look into the American idea of immigrants, but also one of the most overrated and over hyped films I've had the chance to see.
However, then there was last years Religulous, whose director, Larry Charles also helmed the afformentioned Borat. In place of Sacha Baren Cohen is Bill Maher, and in place of a turd of a film, we get a brilliant take on religion and what it's place is in the world. It's a vastly superior film, and was the second best documentary, and best comedy, of last year.
Now we have Bruno. Cohen has returned, as has Larry Charles, and so has the offensive comedy that ran rampant in Borat. However, instead of immigrants, we get homosexuality, and we also get a film that rests firmly in between the two butt cheeks that are Borat and Religulous.
Bruno features Sacha Baron Cohen who returns to the big screen to offer yet another stinging dose of sociopolitical satire. We now find him assuming the persona of gay fashion monger Bruno, the self-proclaimed "voice of Austrian youth TV." Originally conceived as part of Cohen's cult television series Da Ali G Show, the character of Bruno offered a cleverly costumed Cohen the opportunity to highlight the absurdities of the fashion industry by interviewing unsuspecting fashion icons and other haute couture hangers-on. It also now gives him a chance to repent for his past transgressions brought on by Borat.
When walking into Bruno, I honestly had an idea of what to expect. Offensive humor, full frontal male nudity, and a lot of laughs. However, while that was all there, I totally underestimated just how much of these three things there would be. Well, at least the first two.
The biggest complaint that this film will pull from me is something that plagued Charles' other two previous forays into docu-comedy. The film, instead of taking a look at level headed people and the inner demons that plague even the smartest of people, they take to the gutters of aptitude, and go to places which, while making for great comedy, really doesn't express any new points. Sure, the final scene, involving a masked UFC fight which goes into basically a gay romp taking place in the deep south, but it doesn't give us any intellectual insight into America and our fear of homosexuality. There are a few points where this isn't true, but those are so few and far between that it left quite a sour taste in my mouth.
Also, while the film is quite jarring and shocking, the shocks really mean nothing. There is a scene in particular, involving a group of hunters, that ends in a long period of silence, that was the most comedic thing during the entire film. However, instead of mining these situations, Cohen and crew resort to things that not only would more homophobic members of society would freak out during, but even the most level headed of us would feel awkward, most apparent during a scene involving a television test audience. It's not insightful, and while it may be funny, doesn't really make for multiple viewings.
However, the film isn't necessarily a comedy. The film, while being a documentary in look and feel, plays out much more like a candid camera version of a cinematic comedy. So, when evaluating a comedy, one major factor is heads above the rest. Laughs.
And boy did this film have some in spades. The film does tend to lag during the second act, and at the start of the third, but when the film is running at full steam, it's easily the funniest film so far this year. Sure, that's not saying much as this year has been quite low on comedic value, but it's still a feat. There are some really great satirical moments, but really, the film is about shock, and it works on that level. Other levels, not so much. The film is a bit long, a bit bloated, a bit one note, and a bit visually uninteresting.
All in all, the film is steps above Borat, which really isn't saying much. If the film looked at people who could actually bring up interesting issues, this would be something that would be looked at as a masterpiece. However, it's simply the film that came after Borat and improved upon it. Go see Religulous for a better look at American demons.
BRUNO - 6/10
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