Though he had a cult following when Borat was released in 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen exploded in the media with that film, because it was the first time that many people had heard of the brilliant British comedian.
The film itself was a hilariously tasteless chronicle of the American adventures of a fictitious journalist from Kazakhstan. Baron Cohen's genius is his ability to stage encounters that seem real to the people he meets, playing a character with a straight face in real time, fooling those he encounters into being themselves while still coming up with wildly outrageous, spur-of-the-moment dialogue.
So can Bruno, Baron Cohen's newest effort, live up to expectations that Borat created? Of course not -- Baron Cohen has forfeited the element of surprise. The audience won't have the same sense of discovery, of being shocked into laughter by the unexpected audacity of his vision. He's expected to be audacious.
But never fear -- Bruno is still a movie that will make you laugh so hard you'll gasp for breath. The formula is familiar - indeed, the set-up is almost identical - but Baron Cohen still finds ways to shock you into guffaws, over and over.
Borat came to the U.S. to discover America. Bruno comes to America so it can discover him. A TV fashion reporter from Austria, he leaves his country in disgrace after being fired for a wild mishap at a Milan fashion show, involving a Velcro suit.
So Bruno hops a plane to Los Angeles, vowing to become a star in Hollywood. The fact that he is flamboyantly, flamingly gay seems to figure in every calculation -- because he's obsessed with the subject, as well as being utterly convinced of his own indisputable fabulousness.
He finds an agent -- and then calls him while having his nether regions bleached. When Bruno decides he wants to make a pilot for a celebrity interview show, the tape he shows to a focus group runs short of actual celebrity footage -- so he inserts a couple of lengthy shots of him swinging his penis like a lariat (and hands-free, at that) to throbbing techno music. Needless to say, he clears the room.
At one point, he decides that fame can be acquired by releasing a celebrity sex tape -- if he can find a celebrity to have sex with him. His choice: former presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, who bolts like a gazelle when he figures out that Bruno is, in fact, hitting on him.
For the rest of this review, click here to go to my website: www.hollywoodandfine.com.
Follow Marshall Fine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollywoodnfine