Stephen King once said "Satire is only good when it hurts," which is true, as evidenced by the bruising my internal organs took from getting rammed into my ribs so often while watching Brüno. Indeed, Sasha Baron Cohen's latest mock-doc gonzo comedy is deeply, profanely and profoundly funny, a feat made all the more miraculous since we all saw the joke coming.
Months ago, from the moment of the first glimpse of Cohen in his booty-tight yellow lederhosen was declared lame by the entire Web at once, we media elites hastily declared his party over. There was no way on earth he could find the last three humans not exposed to Borat mania and pull the same prank all over again. How wrong we were, how oblivious to what really goes on in places like Arkansas, and of Cohen's ability to still scandalize and entertain in the exact same instant.
The movie is a loose conglomeration of skits, interviews, street theater and stunts held together on the premise that gay fashion reporter and diva Brüno — host of Austrian TV's "uber influential" Funkyzeit — has come to America seeking fame, fortune and even more fabulousness.
Where Borat sometimes took swings at unwitting bystanders, Bruno's first half is aimed squarely at deserving charlatans including talent agents, psychics, designers and media consultants getting it squarely between the eyes. The parody of Hollywood as a lair of vacuous dolts isn't fresh, but it's still rewarding seeing celeb-obsessed twits and sycophants get theirs, even if some of them are in on it. Paula Abdul couldn't possibly be so rock stupid as to use a Mexican day laborer as a piece of furniture on camera and not know it's a put-on? Could she?
These showbiz vipers will do anything to get on camera, and the desperation in staging starts to show, but Cohen knows where his buns are buttered, heading deep into the heartland for the movie's second half. Here he harasses earnestly stupid types such as a "gay reforming" minister who has "perfect blow job lips."
Most of the humor relies on a juvenile fear of gay sex, and most of the victims subjected to his ludicrously flamboyant lifestyle seem ambivalent or simply frozen in place. Still you just have to admire the audacity of a guy who can sit at a hunting grounds campfire surrounded by camo-wearing, gun-toting roughnecks and declare that the starry sky above reminds him of "all the hot guys in the world."
Some won't be able to reconcile a plea for understanding coated in a heavy pink-candy shell of homophobia, but it's hard to deny the comedic punch no matter how dubious the vessel. The gag isn't evergreen however, and Bruno clocks out at an efficient 83 minutes, which will hopefully give him time to cook up a new outlet for his singular gift.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.