8.5 out of 10
It would be easy to dismiss Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno as a vulgar, shocking, push the envelope, raunchy comedy that plays like Candid Camera on crack, but it is so much more than that.  Bruno much like Borat is truly a grand social experiment with Cohen serving as our deranged tour guide.  Bruno isn’t quite as funny as Borat, but there are still plenty of moments that will make you laugh until you cry.  Is Bruno offensive to gay people?  I truly don’t know… my perception is that Cohen is making fun of bigoted homophobes not homosexuals, but surely opinions will vary.
Bruno is an extremely gay, Austrian talk show host obsessed with fashion, fame and sex.  He is unceremoniously dumped as host of Funkyzeit after causing a disaster at a NY fashion show while wearing an outfit made completely of Velcro.  Unable to find work in his homeland, Bruno decides to travel to America to seek fortune and fame and wackiness ensues.  The story isn’t really important as Bruno is really a series of vignettes in which Cohen interacts with seemingly normal people and gets them to say outrageous, off the wall things and this is where his genius is on full display.  In fact most of the scripted moments of the film are there solely to move the plot along and tend to bog down the proceedings. 
The movie targets everyone from celebrities to politicians to rednecks and homophobes to stage moms and most times Cohen hits the bulls-eye, but there are times when he is off his mark.  In one instance, Paula Abdul is unwittingly lured into his trap but she leaves as fast as she arrives and there aren’t many laughs mined from the situation.  Bruno also attempts to make a sex video with politician Ron Paul and I was truly horrified.  To his credit, Paul remains calm while Bruno is coming on to him and although he leaves in a profanity laced tirade, it feels justified.  There is one hysterical moment where Bruno is cast as an extra on the show Medium and disrupts the scene they are filming to great comic effect.  The stage mothers and fathers who are willing to do anything to land a gig for their kids was a highlight for me.  One even said they would allow their baby to get liposuction if it meant getting a gig.  As dirty and vulgar as Bruno is, it can really be thought provoking.  I can’t believe that there are people who would allow their children to do some of the things Bruno asks (I don’t want to ruin it). 
Bruno is willing to do anything to achieve fame.  At first he attempts to become a movie star and when that fails he decided to host a celebrity-centric talk show.  Watching the test audience react to Bruno’s talk show that features him dancing and gyrating his hips to techno music and a talking penis is hilarious.  When his talk show fails, Bruno does everything from joining the army to nearly inciting a riot on the set of The Richard Bey Show in his quest for fame.  Cohen loves to push the envelope when it comes to raunchy and he certainly doesn’t hold back.  Scenes featuring various other sex toys, male nudity and vulgar language abound; there is even a scene where Bruno gets his anus bleached.
Sacha Baron Cohen is more than just an actor or comedian; he is a brilliant performance artist looking to evoke any response, good or bad from his audience.  There is truly no one else like him on the planet and the closest comparison would be to the late (?), great Andy Kaufman.  Much like Kaufman, Cohen always stays in character and doesn’t play by the rules.  He is willing to do, say or wear anything to elicit a response.  There aren’t too many actors who would be willing to burst into a mortgage broker convention stark naked, chasing another naked man with a sex toy.  If nothing else, Cohen is the bravest performer out there.  In one scene, Bruno goes camping with three manly hunters from the south and attempts to get one of them to sleep with him.  This may be on screen for only four minutes, but when you think about the fact that Cohen actually spent all day and all night with these men and never once broke character, it is nothing short of astonishing.  At any moment these men could’ve decided to hogtie Bruno to a tree and leave him in the forest and really… who could blame them?  I marvel at the sheer audacity that Cohen has in putting himself in these extreme situations.
To sum it up, Bruno, although not quite as funny as Borat, is a vulgar, raunchy, and depraved, push the boundaries, gross out comedy that is also enlightening and frightening at the same time.  Much like its star, there is more to the film than meets the eye and whether you love it or hate it, Bruno is quite the experience. 

By Bill Bonfanti

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