Review: Bruno

Poor Sacha Baron Cohen. He got his start on The 11 O'Clock Show, the same series that brought the world Ricky Gervais, and went on to great things. His main character, Ali G, became a household name and years later he followed up the film version with the second sketch from the show, Borat, which became a worldwide success and a film classic. Both, however, shared the same problem.

Each was intended to mock a group of people by exaggerating their beliefs into a person who could never exist. Ali G embodied every ridiculous chav ideal going, while Borat was both an extreme racist and a racial stereotype at the same time. The reason one should feel sorry for Cohen, is that the staunchest fans of his work are the very people he is trying to mock. Chavs worship Ali G, while the politically correct flinch at the mention of Borat. Still, he is married to Isla Fisher, so you can't pity him too much.

Cohen's latest offering brings the third and final character he created for The 11 O'Clock Show to the screen, Bruno, and the format is the same. The erstwhile entertainer's new offering is the very personification of the gay-male stereotype; an over-the-top, promiscuous fashion journalist. Using the Borat formula, Cohen takes Bruno to the US and sees how far he can push average Americans before they reveal their homophobia. The result: not far.

Love or loathe Borat, you have to admire the originality of the formula, cribbed from the format of The 11 O'Clock Show, and the way Cohen managed to expose just how backwards the USA is. If anything, Bruno goes further. A throwaway scene where Cohen finds out how much abuse showbiz mums would allow their babies to take to get them a part, could easily form the basis of a hard-hitting BBC documentary. However, while Borat held the setpieces together with something passing for a plot, Bruno is just a string of sketches that still manages to ape the beats of its predecessor. Equally, whilst the film is shocking and revealing, it falls short on the laughs and just seems to offer less than the stunt-packed Borat.

I went into the cinema thinking that the only way Bruno could top Borat would be to push it further and knowing that was nearly impossible. Indeed, Cohen shies away from the documentary style of his earlier success and focuses much more on scripted scenes, probably as his new-found fame prevents such antics. You only have to remember the Ali G movie to know that isn't his strength.

You'll want to see Bruno as people will be talking about it, but don't expect the heights of Borat.

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