Between hilarity, shock and appalled incredulity, an appreciation of the man’s nerve

Bruno is a no-holds-barred comedy permitting several holds I had not dreamed of. The needle on my internal Laugh Meter went haywire, bouncing between hilarity, appreciation, shock, admiration, disgust, disbelief and appalled incredulity.

Sacha Baron Cohen portrays the title role character in Bruno

Bruno

Three and a half stars

Rated: R (for pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language)

Bruno is a no-holds-barred comedy permitting several holds I had not dreamed of. The needle on my internal Laugh Meter went haywire, bouncing between hilarity, appreciation, shock, admiration, disgust, disbelief and appalled incredulity.

Here is a film that is 82 minutes long and doesn’t contain 30 boring seconds. There should be a brief segment at the next Spirit Awards with John Waters conferring the Knighthood of Bad Taste to Sacha Baron Cohen.

If he decides to tap Cohen on each shoulder with his sword, I want to have my eyes closed.

To describe Cohen’s character Bruno as flamboyantly gay would be an understatement.

He makes Bruce Vilanch seem like Mike Tyson. Bruno is disgraced in his native Austria when he wears a Velcro suit to Fashion Week and sticks to backdrops, curtains and models. It’s slapstick worthy of Jerry Lewis. Then he flies to Los Angeles with his loyal worshipper Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten), vowing to become a celebrity.

As in his 2007 hit Borat, Cohen places his character into situations involving targets who may not be in on the joke and have never heard of Bruno or, for that matter, Sacha Baron Cohen. Some of the situations may be set up with actors, but most are manifestly the real thing.

I include an interview in which Bruno lures congressman Ron Paul into a hotel room, his appearance on a Dallas TV morning show, the screening of a TV pilot before a focus group, counselling with two Alabama ministers dedicated to “curing” homosexuals, and a gay wrestling match before a crowd that is dangerously real.

The setups include an interview with Paula Abdul, and originally included one with La Toya Jackson, which was cut because of her brother’s death. That accounts for the running time being three minutes shorter than at the movie’s London opening. I also believe those are real parents at interviews trying to get their babies hired for a proposed film — mothers who say their babies are ready to work with pyrotechnics, dress as Nazis or be strapped to a cross. These moms want their babies to be stars.

One incredible scene involved a darling little black boy Bruno claims to have adopted in Africa. He appears with this child on the Richard Bey Morning Show in Dallas, before a manifestly real, outraged and all-black studio audience. The host is indeed Richard Bey, but I suspect he was in on the gag.

I learn that the audience wasn’t. Shows like Jerry Springer and Maury Povich have dredged up such astonishing low-lifes that audiences are prepared to believe almost anything.

Certainly it takes sheer nerve for Cohen to walk into some of these situations, knowing he’ll only get one take — if he’s lucky. He plays an allegedly gay-hating straight wrestler in a scene promising gay-bashing, and then shows the two men in the cage getting turned on as they grapple. There is also an eerie tension in a scene where Bruno the gay new hunter sits around a campfire with macho hunters who are very, very silent.

It is no doubt unfair of Cohen to victimize an innocent like Ron Paul. Watching Paul trying to deal with this weirdo made me reflect that as a fringe candidate, he has probably been subjected to a lot of strange questions on strange TV shows, and is prepared to sit through almost anything for TV exposure. On the other hand, he has made a lot of intolerant comments about homosexuals, so by shouting “queer!” as he stalked out along a hotel corridor, he blew his chance of making amends.

Helpful rule: If you find you have been the subject of a TV ambush, the camera is probably still rolling.

Roger Ebert is a syndicated movie critic for The Chicago Sun Times.

Just Posted

Ride to Conquer Cancer cancels but Red Deerian keeps going

Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer was cancelled due to smoke

Red Deer woman saving animals at wildlife centre with TV show

Victoria Bolhuis, 22, interned at Hope for Wildlife for 10 weeks before moving into paid position

Record-breaking year in Red Deer for smoke

Expect more smoke in Red Deer Wednesday

Mustard Seed prepares people for workforce

Employment Readiness Fair to be held August 28

Updated Red Deer smoke free bylaw to ban smoking cannabis in public

Smoke Free Bylaw returns to Red Deer city council Sept. 4

Kim XO is Black Press Media’s fashionista

Starting Sept. 7, stylist Kim XO will host Fashion Fridays on the Life channel on Black Press Media

Liberals unveil poverty plan with lofty goals, but no new spending programs

OTTAWA — The minister in charge of Canada’s latest national plan to… Continue reading

Case of truck driver charged in Humboldt Broncos crash adjourned until October

MELFORT, Sask. — The case of a Calgary truck driver charged in… Continue reading

Animal crackers break out of their cages

After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of… Continue reading

Alligator kills woman trying to protect her dog at resort

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — A woman who often walked her dog… Continue reading

Patients redirected as water leak shuts down Edmonton hospital’s emergency room

EDMONTON — Ambulances are being redirected to other hospitals after a water… Continue reading

Parks Canada moves second bison bull that wandered out of Banff National Park

BANFF — Parks Canada says a second bison bull that wandered out… Continue reading

Lottery for parent sponsorship to be replaced, more applications to be accepted

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is scrapping an unpopular lottery system for… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month