SPOILER ALERT: Please don't read any further if you don't want to know about "Bruno" before you see it.
"Bruno," Sacha Baron Cohen's latest comedy poking fun at extreme people, debuts in theaters later this weekend. I saw it tonight at a crowded, but not full, Sony Lincoln Square screening in NYC. The crowd was a mix of press and promotional attendees. Everyone from A.O. Scott and Peggy Siegal to "non-pro" folks who probably won tickets in a contest. People were laughing tonight, but not with the nearly uncontrollable frenzy I witnessed when I saw "Borat." At the end, the film was met with mediocre applause.
On my way into the theater, I ran into a friend who jokingly asked if I was already offended in advance of the screening. In fact, in the cab on the way to the screening, I'd just read about the apparent other ending of the film. But no, I was not pre-offended.
"Bruno" is outrageous at times, but not offensive to me. Others may disagree. Sure, Sacha Baron Cohen goes too far in his quest for laughs, but, in my opinion, too many times the jokes fall a bit flat. Perhaps this stems from the fact that Bruno is simply not as tightly drawn as "Borat." And whether or not it was real, "Borat" felt a lot less staged than "Bruno." Or maybe its just that, in the wake of the "Borat" lawsuits, we're all thinking to much about how the film's scenes were created. Whatever the case, Sacha Baron Cohen seems to be setting up a punchline that he or one of his fellow actors will deliver, rather than the humor emerging organically. That may have also been the case with "Borat," but for some reason that film felt a bit less forced. And as a character, the fish-out-of-water "Borat" was a really well-drawn figure.
Despite the criticism, I laughed while watching "Bruno" because at the end of the day, Bruno is a guy who will go to any lengths to be famous. Persistent, he keeps coming back for more. But, when we witness the sorts of celebrities and celeb-handlers he encounters in Hollywood, the jokes on all of them, which can be pretty funny stuff.
Here are ten moments that are making me chuckle as I recall them now:
1. "Mexican chair people"
2. Nicole and Suzanne DeFosset
3. Hummus v. Hamas
5. "white Obama"
6. "Brad-olf Pitt-ler"
7. "King Osama"
8. Cruise, Travolta and Spacey
9. "Carbicide" & "carb goggles"
10. Harrison Ford
Photo of Sacha Baron Cohen at the Plaza Las Ventas bullring in Spain.
[image courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing Spain]