In “Borat,” Sacha Baron Cohen played an ignorant, anti-Semitic journalist from Kazakhstan who traveled to the U.S. to make a faux documentary. In “Bruno,” he’s a flamboyantly gay Austrian ‘fashionista’ who’s determined to be an American celebrity. In both provocative ventures, Cohen cajoles real, unsuspecting people into awkward situations – with hysterical consequences.
This time, Cohen crassly exploits the attitudinal discomfort known as homophobia that’s created when heterosexuals, particularly men, encounter aggressive homosexuality. In one scene, sex-crazed Bruno inveigles Representative Ron Paul into his hotel room and tries to seduce him on the pretext of interviewing him about economics; after maintaining his dignity as long as possible, the conservative Texas congressman exits the premises in disgust, muttering, “This guy’s a queer. He’s crazy!” In another, Bruno chats with Paula Abdul who’s served hors d’ouvres off a naked Mexican. (A similar sequence with LaToya Jackson was cut after the untimely death of her brother Michael.) Then there’s Bruno’s ‘adoption’ of a baby in Africa, a thwarted kidnapping in Lebanon and various attempts to ‘go straight’ with martial arts instruction and religious conversion.
Perhaps the most scandalous gag is Bruno’s casting session for glamorous ‘baby’ photo-shoot for which ambitious parents recklessly offer up their offspring. “Is your baby comfortable with bees, wasps and hornets?” he inquires. “Oh, yes, he’s comfortable with everything,” one mother assures him. “Dead or dying animals?” “Yes.” In an even more appalling dialogue, another mother assures him that her 30-pound daughter could lose 10 pounds in one week, if necessary, adding “I’d have to do whatever I could.”
Over the years, British-born Sacha Baron Cohen has developed this rude if riotous alter-ego (Ali G, Borat, now Bruno) and he’s become a cultural phenomenon, an original comic character, exploring radical and risky events, forcing people to challenge their own preconceptions and stereotypes. And director Larry Charles’ choice of ‘reaction shots’ are priceless. As for the R-rating, vulgar, graphic, full-frontal male nudity abounds. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Bruno” is a raunchy, satirical 7. Whether it’s outrageously offensive or offensively outrageous, it’s laugh-out-loud funny.