Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bruno: Head in Your Face

Who remembers Da Ali G show? The short-lived but eye-opening comedy series which came to the United States via HBO long after Sascha Baron Cohen originally conceived its three principal characters, Borat, Bruno and the titular Ali G, was particularly good at disarming, confusing and exposing human beings, cynically painting them as contradictory, hypocritical and bigoted creatures. It was the perfect show for those of us who viewed our fellow man in a cynical light--at least in the United States, anyway (I've never seen Baron Cohen's work across the pond)--showing us how dumb, misguided and ignorant the lot of us can be. Ali G frequently twisted his interviewees' words against them, or just outright made innocent funny with the more benevolent of his victims (such as when he asked "my man, Boutros, Boutros, BOUTROS Gali" why Disney World wasn't represented in the United Nations, reasoning that it has its own currency). Borat got unsuspecting people to show just how anti-Semitic they were, and Bruno pulled some healthy "Zoolander" schtick by slamming all things pretentious, using the fashion industry as his victim. Oh yeah, he also revealed how sadly homophobic we still are.

Well, maybe Baron Cohen is trying to tell me that I'm a huge homophobe (which I'm not), because I sure as hell cringed away from the screen when the surprising image of a flaccid, swinging penis popped up at random intervals during one sequence in his third character film, "Bruno".

If you've not seen "Bruno" then consider yourself foreskinned--I mean, forewarned: Johnson McSwing pops up on the screen at least three times within a one-minute span. Or something like it. I don't know, I didn't count, and it was too long already. Listen: The male flaccid member isn't a pretty thing ("Says you!" Bro, trust me, yours isn't either), and for all the possible subtext behind Baron Cohen's decision to throw it up on a huge ass movie screen, you and I both know he did it primarily for cock value. Shock value. Ahem.

Let's talk about this seriously for a second. While I readily admit that I'm uncomfortable with bare elephant trunk on the screen, this fact is not the issue. Rather, the motivation behind flapping the earthworm speaks for a lot of the "humor" present in "Bruno": "Hey, let's shock the shit out of the audience. It's going to be so outrageous!" Well, shock someone too hard and too many times with your tazer, and he or she might just fall unconscious and MISS ALL OF YOUR GODDAMN JOKES.

Many of the jokes in "Bruno" degrade to the sexual equivalent of potty humor. Oh, look--his partner is pleasuring him with an exercise bike designed to plunge a dildo into his bum. Hey check this out--he's getting whipped by a completely naked dominatrix. This is funny--he and his male assistant just had some earth-shattering sex, and now they're trapped in some overdone bondage suit. There are moments when Bruno's homosexuality creates the sort of quiet, awkward situations (asking a martial arts instructor how to defend against a dildo attack) that we've come to know, love and expect from Baron Cohen, but in most cases, he simply pushes way too hard. No pun intended.

What's most disappointing about this is the fact that, for all of its heinous and outrageous humor, "Borat" still packed enough satire into its story that exposed those of us not familiar with Da Ali G show to anti-Semitism, nonsensical jingoism, antiqiuated sexism and just the general stupidity that humanity has to offer. (Is there an "ism" for that?) "Bruno" sports a main character who might almost be as rich in opportunities for satire--as mentioned, Zoolander did a good job in ridiculing the fashion industry's pretense--and the exposure of America's homophobic tendencies. This is sadly scarce from much of the film's 82 minutes.

Through his familiar twisted yet intellectual methods, Baron Cohen does hit the nail on the head in rare instances. I thought I was in for a good show when Bruno quizzes a model on how difficult her life is, having to remember how to walk properly ("...left foot, then right foot..."). And, in the last pre-credits scene, he comes out as "Straight Dave" and lures thousands of America's homophobes into a UFC-style arena, to rousing cheers and adulation, only to make out passionately with his male assistant to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". (Have you ever seen a redneck cry? I highly recommend it.) Now, where was shit like this for the entire middle hour of the movie?!

"Bruno" is simply a missed opportunity, and unfortunately, will probably lead people to think that all of Baron Cohen's material is nothing more than potty slop. Though if this is the best he can do with the Bruno character, maybe it's a good thing that he has to retire every character who stars in a feature film.


The Gideon said...

Quite frankly, I think that his motivation for putting wang on screen was exactly to elicit the type of reaction he got from you. Why exactly does it disturb you so? It shouldn't. There's only a few degrees of separation between those that can't handle a little jimmie imagery and those very redneck UFC fans you mentioned.

MrCHUPON said...

I highly disagree that there are only a few degrees of separation between simply not wanting genitalia shoved in your face and rednecks who actually cry at the sight of homosexuality because there is a difference between, "I am a bit repulsed by this presentation" and "This is morally repugnant and not the way nature intended things.

Take Eastern Promises. Viggo Mortensen fights in a bath house butt-nekkid with his johnson flopping about. Not a problem. NOT repulsive. (Actually, the only reason I winced is because I didn't want him to get razor'ed down there.)

I'll do you one further. If one of his shots was a HUGE vagina rubbing up against the screen, I would have been just as repulsed.

Given this, yes, seeing a wang on screen does disturb me a little for the simple fact that I don't think we've been blessed with the most attractive-looking reproductive organs. It has nothing to do with homophobia.