After the controversy and popularity of 'Borat' two years ago, Sacha Baron Cohen faced what musicians term 'the difficult second album syndrome' for his follow-up cinematic outing.
Opting this time to leave his previous Kazakh alter ego at home in favour of Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion designer, he's managed to do it again - and better.
Just as he did previously on an unsuspecting American public in 'Borat', Cohen again mines comedy from people who unknowingly expose themselves as venal, greedy, ruthless, and utterly foolish. The basic plot, which is little more than a collection of staged skits, follows Bruno's journey to become the "biggest Austrian celebrity since Hitler".
Part of this involves finding a baby to accompany him, and an X Factor-style toddler photoshoot with actual mothers and fathers trying ruthlessly to get their babes into the limelight. Amongst the requirements of the infants, Bruno tells the parents with utter seriousness, are an ability to work with loud noises, rhythm-less music, bees, komodo dragons, and, oh yes, being thrown from a four-storey building! Only one couple hesitates before eventually signing on the dotted line like all the others.
Another has Bruno dressed as a Nazi pushing a wheelbarrow with a Jewish child inside - "but all in the best dramatic taste" - to the complete agreement of the mother. Another parent whose child who weighs 30 pounds is asked to bring the weight down by 10 pounds in six days "because we are looking for the next Nicole Richie, not the next Scarlett Johansson". Naturally, Mom agrees to an immediate slim-fast plan.
Another skit has him appearing on a 'Jerry Springer'-type show, where he arrives with his adopted African child and a t-shirt bearing the word 'Gayby'. Things go from nuts to outrageous when giant screens show pictures of said infant cavorting in hot tubs with grown men and hanging Christ-like from a cross. The final sketch sees Bruno trying the change his gay image a new persona - Straight Dave.
Seeking the ultimate credibility amongst the most anti-homo crowd that can be found anywhere on the face of the earth, he tackles the world of wrestling with his event: Straight Dave Man Slammin' Max Out. Unfortunately his opponent turns out to be…..his ex-lover. They crouch in the ring ready to fight to the death…..but then their eyes meet…..and the romance is again passionately, very passionately, rekindled in front of 10,000 screaming hetros baying for blood. Classic.
Where 'Borat' annoyed due to its non-PC attitude to American sacred cows, Bruno underscores the attitude - while ramping up the outrage even higher. Various celebrities have walk-on parts - Bono, Elton John, Chris Martin and Slash - but the stage belongs to Cohen in another comedy masterpiece that will play very well on this side of the Atlantic.
Once again, he'll be criticised and excoriated in certain sections of the conservative US media, but, by now, that is all part of the 'Bruno' publicity machine. While Cohen did slap on the Austrian attitude for the cameras in London at the film's recent premiere there, much of his effect is diluted in a culture where nutty Austrian behaviour is expected.
In the good old USA, however, he'll no doubt bring out the pointy-hat-and-burning-cross brigade. A terrific antidote to the current doom and gloom and poor weather.
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