©2009 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
Every right imaginable is reserved.


This week:

Filthy says:
"The joke's on us this time."

Bruno isn't very good. I laughed a couple of times, but there's a lot of shit I laugh at that isn't very good. Like The Weather Channel. Give me a carton of expired Robitussin and six hours with storm warnings and I guarantee I'll piss my pants and fall on the shag carpet in tears. You try explaining to somebody later what was so funny about seeing a poor family in Ohio sitting on the roof of their flooded home, though.

Bruno is the follow-up--and essentially the exact same idea executed shittier--as Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen's big hit from three years ago. In that movie, and this one, Cohen assumes the role of a dimwitted stereotype in hopes of exposing ignorance and bigotry America. Here, he mostly fails. And when he succeeds, it's of targets that are way to easy to even count as a score.

Cohen's Bruno character is a gay Austrian fashionista. He's not likeable. In fact, he's a self-absorbed asshole. This is meant to be funny, but it's also fucking obvious and one-note. There is nothing about Bruno to distinguish him from a bad SNL skit except there's no NBC censor to keep it from being tasteless. So he can show his balls, say dirty words and blur out simulated anal sex in hopes of tricking us into thinking this is daring. Hell, I can see real anal sex for $7 every 15 minutes on my computer and it ain't daring at all. It is sort of gross, though. What makes Bruno especially painful to hang out with is that while we're supposed to laugh at how mean he is one moment and then give a shit when his feelings get hurt. It's a really crappy and indulgent way to write a character: demand the audience to react how you want without justification.

Granted, Bruno's plot is just a clothesline to hang gags on. Still, if you want to pretend you aren't just doing a bunch of sketches, why not put some fucking effort into the story and the character who drives it? While it still wouldn't have been good, the movie would have improved if they admitted it was just sketches, not a story. The ostensible story is Cohen's gay Austrian has come to America to become famous. He attempts fame many different ways, each a rather obvious riff on something that's happened and already been mocked ad nauseum on late night TV. He adopts a black child like Madonna, he visits a minister who converts gays into straights, he interviews famous people and he goes to a psychic.

He interviews Paula Abdul (really? That's the best they could do-make fun of Paula Abdul? Isn't that about as hard as hunting legless goats in an empty swimming pool?). When she arrives he has no furniture and has his Mexican gardeners assume the positions of benches to be sat on. Abdul does, but is quite uncomfortable and leaves quickly. There is no punchline, no funny bits, and the scene ends after a few awkward minutes with Abdul being sped away by a publicist. Well, where's the fucking surprise? How else could this have possibly ended? Who is this supposed to make look bad? Actually, the skit reminded me of those smug, fake anti-smoking ads where some supposedly hip teenagers do some street performance to illustrate Big Tobacco's bad behavior, and a bunch of fake innocent bystanders look appalled. Same smugness with same easiness of a foregone conclusion.

When talking to an anti-gay minister, Cohen gets off precisely one funny line, about the man's blow-job lips. Otherwise the minister is a very patient man who truly believes he's doing God's work and trying quite hard at it. He doesn't sound stupid or mean. And Cohen never does or says anything insightful or revealing about trying to convert gays. He just sits there, for far too long, thinking the premise itself is hilarious. Cohen (not Bruno) looks worst in the scene, for first not revealing anything and second for failing to get an unlikeable subject to laugh at.

In three other scenes, Cohen comes off worst. He goes hunting with three good old boys, and then hits on them in a tent, naked. The men have a hell of a lot of restraint, yet are supposed to be the butt of the joke. Tee hee, country bumpkins are afraid of homos! Only, they sure don't seem to be. They just appear to be worn out by the Bruno character's obnoxiousness and aggressiveness. They don't call him names, don't hurt him, just tell him to get out of their tent when he tries to snuggle naked at four a.m. Man, is that gag weak, and boy does Cohen come across as trying too fucking hard to stereotype the hunters.

Cohen goes to a swinger's party and again acts outrageous in hopes of provoking a reaction. I don't know what he's trying to say about swingers, but I know the obvious things that he fails to. I sympathize with the victims for behaving very kindly and for him trying to make them a punchline in exchange. Again, they don't look bad, he does. Finally, Cohen comes on to libertarian nutjob and closet-racist Ron Paul in a hotel room. In the process, he makes that wacko seem reasonable, and he reveals nothing about how fucking out there that guy is. That seems like it wouldn't be hard to do, yet he fails. The problem is all of these skits, and much of the movie, have no satire. They just have Cohen behaving badly and people responding not quite as stereotypically as I'm sure Cohen hoped. He fails to prick any overstuffed targets, or reveal any truths about some hidden hatred. We just see more and more of Cohen acting obnoxious without result.

Bruno is 82 minutes and it's too long at that. Where Borat was stuffed with funny gags and it felt like there was a lot more where it came from, this one is stretched thin. I got the sense they had to really scrape the cutting room floor to get it to feature length. The skits I described are overlong and go on past what they're worth. The monotony of Cohen's Bruno gets reinforced skit after skit. He's not offensive, as I'm sure he hopes, he's just repetitive.

Bruno is just weak. It's not funny, it's not revealing and it's far from clever. I don't know that there is a good movie in this character. He's not interesting enough. If he wants to expose bigotry or the cruelty of others, he probably ought to try harder and find better targets. Two Fingers.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Maria Sala of The CW

For My Sister's Keeper "Grab your girlfriends and go see this summer' s most heartwarming film!

Filthy's Reading
Richard Price - Lush Life

Listening to
Tapes n Tapes- Walk it Off


Lost Highway