Saturday, July 11, 2009

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Bruno

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

It's kind of tough to critically analyze a movie like Bruno, which almost half mockumentary and half sketch comedy, so in my head I defaulted to what I gather many other people did as well and just compared it to Borat both as I watched and afterwards. Unfortunately, I really liked Borat, and frankly this just didn't measure up. Despite the fact that it was essentially a movie about fooling regular people and making them look foolish, Borat still had a certain earnestness and sincerity at its core that gave it a sort of uplifting quality that Bruno lacks. For one thing, for all his flaws, Borat is a likable character, somebody we root for and feel like we're in on the joke with; Bruno is arrogant, dismissive and offensive with no real redeeming qualities that make you want to forgive him and side with him over his patsies. The bigger issue with Bruno vs Borat though is that the latter did have some semblance of a throughline and larger story to hold it together whereas the former really does just feel like a list of skits and bits that Sacha Baron Cohen came up with and then strung together without any real decent transitions. There's also no question that Baron Cohen's increased visibility in the past couple years and the success of Borat raising the profile of his characters hurt Bruno as you're even more skeptical about what's real and what isn't and wondering doesn't make the movie more provocative, just less genuine. There are some truly funny parts of Bruno to be sure, but I noticed most of them involved extreme and graphic sexual comedy, which was more of a rarity and "final level" type deal for Borat, whereas here it feels like they couldn't figure out more subtle but equally funny alternatives. Also, like Borat, Bruno is definitely a movie you need to see in theaters because a rowdy audience is a key component of what makes it work, but Borat is still good enough on its own that I own it on DVD while I doubt I'll even rent Bruno. Don't get me wrong: Bruno proves that Sacha Baron Cohen is still a very funny and incredibly brave performer, but this film lacks the heart of his previous effort.

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