Nearly three years after Sacha Baron Cohen burst onto the screen in “Borat” - still one of the funniest films in recent memory - the British comedian returns with “Bruno.” Like its predecessor, here is another gonzo-style attack on unsuspecting victims, that is at times hilarious, although ultimately not quite on the level of “Borat.”
Cohen plays Bruno, an eccentric Austrian fashion expert who is banned from local television after a disastrous costume choice during a high-profile fashion show.
Humiliated in his homeland, Bruno heads to America, hoping to regain his celebrity status and become a worldwide phenomenon.
Anyone familiar with “Borat” or Cohen’s work on the HBO series “The Ali G Show” should know exactly where “Bruno” is headed. This is a comedy that isn’t so much about the character as it is about how people will react to this person’s outlandish behavior. (Think of it as the Cohen version of “Punk’d”).
Where “Borat” played brilliantly off ethnic stereotypes, “Bruno” tries to tackle America’s homophobia - with less effective results. Cohen displayed enough subtlety with Borat, but he is so over the top as Bruno, you can’t help to wonder how many of the bits in this film where staged. (Do you really think Paula Abdul had no idea what was going on?)
That being said, there are some moments of comic genius, including an interview with presidential candidate Ron Paul that spirals out of control, a casting call for babies to do a photo shoot in which the parents seem oblivious to what is going on, and a bit during a local UFC show that nearly causes a riot.
It’s moments like this when Cohen and “Bruno” excel. Unfortunately, those moments are more sporadic this time, probably because this is a one-note comedy where the gag has been seen, and done, better.
A side note and warning: This is not a film for everyone. The film has some rather graphic sexual situations that made me wonder how it didn’t earn the film an NC-17 rating. Cohen and director Larry Charles don’t just cross the line with some gags, they leap over it and proceed to destroy it.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Watchmen” (B), the highly anticipated adaptation of the popular graphic novel that is a solid, not spectacular, entry in the comic book genre.
Set in an alternate mid-1980s earth where Richard Nixon is in the middle of his fifth term as president, “Watchmen” follows a group of former costumed superheroes adjusting to the world after their vigilante ways have been outlawed by the government.
When the ex-superhero known as the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is brutally murdered, one of his colleagues, Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), begins an investigation, uncovering a terrifying conspiracy that could result in a catastrophic end to civilization.
For the most part, “Watchmen” is an engrossing and very adult entry into the comic book genre.
Director Zack Snyder, the man behind “300,” uses his unique visual style to create an interesting world full of sex, blood and violence.
David Hayter and Alex Tse’s screenplay has some moments of dark humor and satire that really work, especially in the film’s first half, and presenting these superheroes as flawed characters is a nice touch.
Unfortunately, the screenplay gets too preachy for its own good in the final act and the nearly three-hour running time becomes exhausting.
The spotty cast doesn’t ease that burden.
Morgan and Haley fare the best, although Malin Akerman does exude a sexy confidence as Silk Spectre II.
Billy Crudup is interesting as the blue-tinted Dr. Manhattan, but his character is responsible for most of the film’s excessive monologues, limiting Crudup’s effectiveness.
It’s still better than Patrick Wilson, playing Nite Owl II, who is rather bland as the one superhero conflicted with returning to action.
I’ll concede this is a movie that isn’t for everyone. Still, if you are a fan of “300” and you like your comic book heroes a little dark, this is definitely the movie for you.
“Watchmen” is rated R for strong graphic violence, nudity and language and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton is on vacation this week, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be seeing movies. If you want to know Micheal’s instant reaction to “Harry Potter” or any other movie he decides to see, you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428. If you’re Twitter-free, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.