2009 // USA // Larry Charles // July 15, 2009 // Theatrical Print
C+ - It was inevitable that Brüno would prove to be less radical than the utterly pitiless Borat, the prior "ambush comedy" collaboration between director Larry Charles and the fearless Sacha Baron Cohen. Unfortunately, it's also less funny. Brüno, a ludicrously flamboyant Austrian fashionista who dreams of American celebrity, is simply not as fun to goggle at as Cohen's clueless Kazakh, perhaps because Borat's aspirations were simpler and his ego less gargantuan. Never mind his Teutonic origins; Brüno is portrayed as the apotheosis of American narcissism, shamelessness, and fame-addled stupidity. The film slumps when Charles relies excessively on scripted story or tired "Gays Are Gross" humor, and, on balance, its provocative subtext is less amusing than Cohen's exceedingly game jackassery. The biggest laughs are coaxed from absurdities like Brüno sneaking naked into a redneck's tent at 3 a.m. (because a bear ate his clothes, you see), or jumping out a window in terror to escape a dominatrix. While Cohen's characters, Brüno included, aren't exactly brilliant creations, they do shuffle on the bleeding edge of comedy, juggling a plethora of pop culture's most uncomfortable traits. Even if Cohen fumbles half the time, it's still a worthwhile show.