Eat The Press

borat as jon lovitz.jpg

There are two interesting issues raised by the LAT's article on how the Borat lawsuits will affect the Bruno movies. One is how the Borat lawsuits will affect the Bruno movies. The other is how the LAT misleadingly titles some of its articles.

Let's look at these one by one. The LAT catalogues the challenges facing the Bruno movie deal which NBC Universal signed with creator Sacha Baron Cohen, whose Borat and Bruno characters were featured on his Da Ali G Show. With the success of the Borat movie, it will be harder to trick unwitting mockumentary subjects to appearing on film (Newsweek made this argument last week). Even if Bruno can fool said subjects, there's now the risk of legal liability afterward thanks to the rash of lawsuits that are being filed against Borat producers and the studio, Twentieth Century Fox. There's no question that Borat's profile is huge in America, thanks to about a gazillion magazine covers, TV appearances and reviews, so yes, it probably would be difficult to replicate the Borat formula. However, the LAT does not address the possiblity that Cohen & co. might (a) have already done so or (b) might actually not want to replicate Borat at all. Bruno is, after all, a well-established character of Cohen's, in frequent rotation on Da Ali G Show, so tons of usable footage might already be in the can. More likely, Cohen, whose entire act is based on improvising, is confident that Bruno can adapt. (Newsweek, you don't get a say here, you equated Borat with Tom Green humping a moose. Perhaps you missed the stellar box office returns of RoadTrip.) As for the lawsuits, yes, those could get expensive...for Fox. This movie hasn't even been made yet, so there's ample time to not fraudulently induce people to participate.

Interesting questions, but all hypothetical, as the LAT itself confirms: "Universal declined to comment for this story, but studio officials have indicated they plan to move forward with "Bruno." Yet they still stated that Borat "could mar" the deal. This implies that the deal is in danger, a suggestion which is wholly unsupported by the facts in the article. It doesn't stop the author from using loaded language to suggest it though: "Universal may already be feeling buyer's remorse" (unsupported); "Some critics" wonder if the gay Bruno will play in Peoria (which critics?); "lawsuits have added another layer of complexity for Universal" (again, unsupported by Universal and arguably the lawsuits will make it that much easier for Universal to anticipate and avoid legal pitfalls). The bottom line is that Universal's deal is worth $42.5-million, and so far, Borat has grossed $109.2-million. Even figuring Cohen's sweet deal for 15% of the gross, that's a pretty decent incentive for Universal.

We have no vested interest in the success of the Bruno movie, but this is the second time in less than a week that an LAT headline has led us astray; last week we complained that an LAT headline had promised details of how the O.J. Simpson project had been "a hot topic" inside Fox without actually delivering those details. Two may not be a trend, but in this case it's more than enough.


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