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Jul 22, 2009

Fletch's Film Review: Brüno

It may not be evidence of its quality, but if you were looking for a sign that a film like Brüno is necessary, you perhaps need look no further than your local theater. If it's anything like mine (Harkins Theaters, which I love, by the way), then the situation you encountered while attempting to see the film might have led you to believe you were attending the latest entry in the Faces of Death series.

I exit my nicely air-conditioned car and venture out into the 110°+ heat. I make my way to the box office, where I'm greeted by a sign that says something to the effect of this:


NOTICE!

BRÜNO CONTAINS STRONG, SUSTAINED SEXUAL CONTENT

NO ONE UNDER 17 ADMITTED
without parent or guardian with them throughout the film.

I chuckle at the sign, thinking it to be a bit overkill (and at how they seem to try to portray it as NC-17 with the smaller disclaimer that minors can get in with a parent/guardian); after all, anyone remotely familiar with Sasha Baron Cohen should know to expect somewhat shocking, profane and controversial subject matter. No worries, though. I place my order: "2 adults for Brüno." The 16-year old behind the glass diverts from his usual routine, going into a rehearsed script: "Are you aware that this film contains sustained scenes of strong sexual --" I cut him off. "Yes." What am I getting myself into?

I walk inside and hand our tickets to the ticket-taker. He glances at them, and following the lead of the box office boy, has added something to his standing "theater 6 is to your right" (as if I need to be told where the theaters are anymore). He too asks us if we're aware of how filthy and naughty this Brüno is. We say "yes" yet again. Ok, enough already people.

We get our drinks and popcorn and make our way to theater 6. Good f*cking God, man! Not only is there yet another (bigger) sign, but they have an employee stationed outside the doors checking tickets prior to granting entry (not something usually done at this particular multiplex, though I wish it was as it might keep the teenage riff-raff element out a bit more). Are you keeping track of the number of warnings and/or obstacles we've been faced with thus far, for a film rated R, the same rating that 5 other films at this multiplex of 14 theaters contains, none of which has a single warning or disclaimer aside from its MPAA rating? What are we to make of this?

We watch the film and find out.

Brüno is indeed an obscene, profane movie, filled with references to sex (and sex acts) and contains ample nudity, though after one viewing I'd be hard-pressed to say it contained any more than something like Basic Instinct and certainly less screen time than even the CGI-assisted Watchmen from earlier this year. And while each of those films had their share of media hype and outcry from conservative pundits, I don't recall nearly the direct scrutiny when actually purchasing a ticket for said film. No, the difference here, as This Film Is Not Yet Rated director Kirby Dick would be quick to tell you, is that Brüno deals directly with homosexuality. That's right, kids - gay sex. Man on man. Penises. Anuses. Rectums. Dildos.

God f*cking forbid.

It's a shame, then, that Brüno isn't terribly funny (or even poignant), because if the experience I encountered, in a not-all-that conservative town such as Scottsdale (yes, I know Arizona is historically a red state, but this isn't the bible belt we're talking about here), is any indication, Cohen not only pulled his pranks on the unknowing rubes within the movie, he's done it to countless hundreds of theaters and millions of audience members nationwide as well. He's proved his point in spades.

However, he might have also proved that when it comes to film, he's a one-trick pony. We're all aware that the characters of Borat, Brüno and Ali G came from Cohen's popular Da Ali G show, but that doesn't mean that the spin-off films need to follow the exact same premise. Foreign character with goofy accent treks to America to become a star, fails miserably, becomes homeless, and only through those trials and tribulations does he learn what he must do to go forward. This idea might have worked had Brüno been half as funny as Borat was, but it just can't measure up to naked man-on-man wrestling and anti-semitism no matter how hard it tries. And it tries hard. Unfortunately, the harder Cohen pushes the audience, the harder it is he falls when they back away, leaving him with nothing to push but the air in front of him. There are some flashes of brilliance here, maybe enough to warrant an HBO viewing in six months, but not enough to get in a tizzy over.

Oh wait - too late for that.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Whatever."


9 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Brüno"

Nic Cage said...

The gay MMA fighting/sex in front of hundreds of rednecks was great though!

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

I've been trying to formulate the proper response to this movie for some time now. Flashes of brilliance, yes, but the movie died like an awful stand-up comedian in conservative Cincinnati. I was the only person left laughing.

And then there were the post-viewing responses. Oy vey, what a country.

Clive Dangerously said...

The morality police gauntlet you faced sounds about the same as what I went through when my dad and I went to go see Clerks 2. They were hellbent on me not seeing that movie. If the content is that objectionable, why don't these theater owners take a stand and not show it? There was some Utah-based theater that did that when Brokeback was out -- I don't agree with their issues with the movies, but I appreciate that they don't look to profit from a movie they think is 'wrong'.

Fletch said...

Nic - Yes. Yes it was. Can't believe there weren't more chairs thrown...

Paul - what kind of post-viewing responses are we talking about here? C'mon, this sounds good...

Clive - yeah, pretty sure that's the same Utah chain that refused to show Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Yeah, I guess there is some respoect to be had in their boycotting it even if we think doing so is totally wrong. Never really thought of it that way.

Just so long as no one like CleanFlicks comes along in six months with a 'family friendly' edition. Not that that would be possible with Brüno... ;)

Clive Dangerously said...

Ugh, CleanFlicks... I saw the sanitized version of Apocalypto in my Spanish class "way back" (2 years ago) in high school. It was pretty much as expected, and yet still appalling.

And offensive, since we were seniors and that was only rated R.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Guy in Abercrombe shirt to his girlfriend: What the fu*k was that sh*t? That was the fu*king gayest sh*t ever.

Girlfriend: It's not like they didn't--

Guy: Shut up! I can't believe how fu*king gay that was! What the fu*k was that? Where the fu*k was Borat?

And that, I think, was the point of the movie.

A.P. Simon said...

This has seriously got to be one of my favorite reviews on Blog Cabins, sir.

Great review, and I find it a little funny that I encountered the same thing. Although I myself didn't see the movie (lack enthusiasm), I was behind in line a couple picking up tickets, going through the same motions as you did, went to the ticket line, receiving the same tired warning, and right outside the theater room entrance, there was an employee waiting to check tickets there. Now I'm only interested in BRUNO to see if I receive the same treatment...

Luxlucky said...

yeah, the only thing in my mind while watching this movie was... wtf?

Daniel Getahun said...

I feel like there must have been some kind of incident (some kid complained to his parents, etc.) at that theater to warrant so many warnings, because I experienced absolutely nothing like that.

But warning or not, it was just all a little too sexually stupid for me. SBC is funniest, in my opinion, when he is interviewing people (in both Borat and Bruno), not when he is naked.