Brüno (2009) (R)

A brainchild of Sacha Baron Cohen, "Brüno" tries to recreate the effect that "Borat" had, except this time for the gays. Don't try to make the mistake that the movie is mocking the stereotypes of a genre, because it's really not and for all its highly offensive moments, it's only to expose bigotry that we chuckle...well, that and for the balls of Cohen (hmmm, phrasing).
Beginning in Austria, "Brüno" plays like a documentary, following an openly gay fashionista as he tries to claim eternal famehood, something that's becoming more and more hard to define and recreated. Our hero, Brüno (Cohen, obviously), begins trying to make his name big with a magazine, in which he believes that he holds the power to make something a trend or break it in its cultural footsteps. But it only tacks a few candid camera gags before Brüno is kicked off the magazine and tries to find himself fame in other places.
He decides that he'll move to America and because a celebrity. An A-listers, not a B or C-lister. But how does one just spring into the spotlight at "nineteen" years of age? Brüno thinks that maybe he should make a talk show about celebrities and then he'll ride the waves of success all the way to the bank.
Things aren't quite that easy and Brüno starts fumbling for his 'get famous quick card' which he sees in places like charity and in becoming heterosexual.
The plot isn't what we watch the movie for. The gags are. The time when Cohen pretends to perform fellatio on a ghost in the presence of a psychic...that's what we watch the movie for. As such, it is designed as an equal opportunity offender and some critics say that Cohen picks targets that are too obvious: redneck, Christians, black people. Indeed, the movie can come across as a racist, horrifying piece of nonsense pieced together at the last minute by a comedian who is trying to bottle lightning twice. To some extent they might be correct; but that doesn't stop certain moments of shock and horror from being side-splitting funny.
What really works in "Brüno" besides the outrageous and uncomfortable sense of not knowing if these people are really getting pranked or if they have had some knowledge of this beforehand, is Cohen's inability to let anything daunt him. In creating this character, he does not care how he appears, how he is talked to, or what he does in public that will bring around a laugh.
Seth MacFarlane said in an interview that almost nothing is off-limits in comedy, because even if it's a cheap laugh, it's an honest laugh. Cohen seems to agree with this to some extent, except he takes it a step further and becomes the joke that crosses "the line".
Again, don't get the idea that "Brüno" is high-brow commentary either, because it's far from it. There are moments when Cohen seems to be stretching at something, like when he tries to seduce Ron Paul to leak their sex tape...but at the close of the scene, it's all just for a laugh.
Brüno's assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten) accompanies Brüno to America and is the abused sidekick in the relationship. As the movie progresses director Larry Charles and Cohen find a way to work Lutz into more of the gags.
Shocking, yes. Hilarious, yes. Offensive, double yes.
Still, beyond all its OMG moments, "Brüno" is funny, plain and simple. And that's all it was really going for, wasn't it?

Score: ★★★½

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