"No logical person would consider a show like this unless they had some sort of a mental or moral defect."
After being introduced to Sacha Baron Cohen and his Zartan-esque ability to take on new personalities convincingly on 'Da Ali G Show,' I made a point to watch every episode to catch the antics of his diverse characters. On the program, the least tasty flavor in the peculiar Neopolitan ice cream had to be Brüno, the gay Austrian fashionista talk show host, whose favorite antic seemed to be fooling overly heterosexual men into saying or doing some not very heterosexual things. The character just wasn't as inspired, and felt much like a caricature, especially compared to the brilliant Ali G and Borat characters.
While 'Ali G: Indahouse' was an unappreciated masterpiece, the Borat movie, 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,' created quite the stir, taking the nation by storm, despite being a regurgitation of the Borat segments of 'Da Ali G show.' Borat became a superstar, and much like Tom Green, or the Jackass crew, became too famous for his own good, forcing retirement due to the perceived inability to fool future audiences with extreme antics. With the success of the Borat film, the rights for the last remaining character of Cohen's creation were bought by Universal for a hefty sum, and Brüno would soon find a home on the biggest stage of them all.
It's just too bad that 'Borat' emptied the tank and forgot to refill it with new material, as 'Brüno' feels like an uninspired regurgitation rather than a unique experience.
After a mishap at a Prada show, the humiliated fashion reporter Brüno is blacklisted and forced to find a new avenue for fame. He travels to Los Angeles to make it big, but every attempt at celebrity is met with failure, from a horrid talk show (featuring a talking, dancing penis) proposal, to the inability to even make a celebrity sex tape. Brüno tries every hair-brained scheme he can think of to become famous, only to foil his each and every attempt. When he decides to go "straight" like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kevin Spacey, Brüno again is met with disastrous results. Can he achieve the fame he desires?
While the best parts of the Brüno character in 'Da Ali G Show' translate over nicely in this new setting, the film is startlingly similar to 'Borat,' to the point that it's predictable and somewhat boring, creating a very slow and haphazard 82 minutes. While the reasons to travel to America differ, the setup and punchline are entirely the same. Want to train to defend yourself against
jews homosexuals and their attacks, as taught by a martial arts instructor? You're in luck. Why not get into a fight with your producer assistant? That can be done. Hey, I have an idea! Why not create confusion by mingling in a gay pride parade "God Hates Gays" protest?
Brüno has undergone some minor changes (like the removal of the faux hawk in favor of a bleached mop), but for the most part his character stayed the same. His strong Austrian accent and infusion of random German words into his normal English speech remains, but his message is obviously altered by the success of 'Borat.' Brüno wouldn't normally get parents to willingly agree to expose their children to dangerous situations, as the ineptitude to adapt to accepted norms is much more his Kazakhstani shade's agenda. Additionally, his focus on pop culture has been magnified; for example, he parodies the sexuality of famous stars for cheap laughs that scream of being forced. The biggest problem lies in Brüno's insistence on shocking audiences and groups of people, rather than coercing them into uncomfortable situations. The fact that the film pauses for an ill planned trip to the Middle East is somewhat of a deathblow, as there is no humor to be found, not even in the attempt to become a hostage. While the actions are desperate like the character would be, they are not fitting of the character in his methods, nor the mood and scope of the film.
I'll admit, there's humor to be found in this lowest of the low brow style of comedy, even if it isn't original or inspired in the least. The anal bleaching sequence is hilarious, as is the early sequence involving extreme sexual activities. Ron Paul's appearance is inspired, while the teased appearance by Harrison Ford pays off in spades. The film does quite well when it breaks free from its own shackles as Brüno tries to convince himself to be straight, as the situations he creates are far more natural and humorous. Most importantly, the intolerance and stupidity of the general public that is brought to the surface by Brüno's antics are a social commentary worth checking out. Still, Brüno is a big bag of hit or miss, and it while it may try to go for broke, the only thing broke here is the formula. I can't help but say I'm a bit disappointed, as I found 'Borat' to be utterly brilliant. I suppose the same tired ol' joke just isn't as funny the second time around.
"I wanted to poke my eyes out with hot needles..."
"You'd have to borrow the needles from me."
I went into 'Brüno' (oh, that just sounded wrong...) expecting the worst, due to the street documentary filming style that has been used in Cohen's previous works, 'Da Ali G Show' and 'Borat.' So, to say my expectations were exceeded is somewhat false praise, as the AVC MPEG-4 transfer (at 1080p in the 1.85:1 window) presents the film according to how it was filmed, making the discrepancies that much more obvious.
There is some benefit to buying this film on Blu-ray rather than DVD, as there are quite a few sequences (interviews in particular) that are very sharp and natural, with gorgeous skin tones, fabulous contrast, and detail coming out the film's Auschwitz.
Still, even if the film is authentic to its source, the source really cannot go without mention. The non-video portions of the film, from 35mm print, are drastically different in quality (naturally), with grain spikes that can go off the charts that obscure detail and refuse to stay at any particular level. Detail refuses to stick on any level, either, going from blurry and soft to sharp and solid in the 35mm sequences. The footage on the "Today with Richard Bey" program is particularly awful, resembling the grittiest, grainiest, artifact riddled television talk program you could imagine.
Colors are often washed out, which surprised me, considering how flamboyant I knew the character to be going into this film. Aliasing pops up a few times, with fences (and the cage at the MMA match) shimmering quite a bit. I cannot say I expected much from the video department, and I hope no one goes into this expecting another 'G.I. Joe.' 'Brüno' may be true to its source, but that doesn't mean it looks good.
The audio side of 'Brüno' is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (with a few DTS 5.1 dubs for those of the non-English persuasion) that, just like the video, is hampered by the material it is presented.
The film is as front heavy as a mock/pseudo documentary can get, with the focus on confusing and luring its prey into believing the situation preventing the ability to rig every situation for the best sound recording processes possible. Still, there are a few sequences where the audio dares to move into the surround speakers, particularly the engaging MMA sequence (which, back when it happened in real life, was called a "wrestling match"), which puts you right in the middle of the engaged, but soon to be disgusted, crowd.
Bass levels were quite pleasant in the soundtrack, especially the opening Scooter song Nessaja that samples The Final Countdown, which was simply insane, though it sadly set a high bar for which the film never again reached. Dialogue is perfectly clear, and quite clean, considering the circumstances, never muffling or possessing feedback. This is a sufficient no-frills track, that does a great job of presenting what little there is to present with the upmost enthusiasm.
The menu for 'Brüno' is in German (hilariously bad German such as Exterminated in the place of Deleted), with English proper translations that pop up to the right of any selection.
So, as Brüno asked in his proposed talk show: "keep it, or abort it?" That's for you to decide. 'Brüno' isn't for everyone, be they fans of the show or virgins to the character. The film doesn't degrade homosexuals in any way (quite the opposite, in fact, rooting out homophobia), and is only likely to truly offend those who have issues with gays. While the Blu-ray is far from demo material, one couldn't honestly expect that. I expected originality and a definitive and unique voice. What I got instead? A straight man parading around as a gay man parading around as a straight man, taking the road most traveled, and previously journeyed by his alternate persona, only with different results.