To Bruno or Not to Bruno?
David Fear and Frank Paiva argue over 'Bruno's' funny factor
Stale or razor sharp? Easy humor to non-deserving victims or potent social satire? Funny or not funny? In terms of Sacha Baron Cohen's newest comedy assault "Bruno" two writers duke it out.
You could call the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen a lot of things, but you'd never accuse him of being either a wallflower or less than fully committed. Whether he's ambushing politicians while pretending to be a B-boy interviewer for the BBC (Ali G) or fooling Midwesterners under the guise of an inept Kazakh journalist (Borat), Cohen has a tendency to never break character and, quite often, risk life and limb in the name of belly laughs.
In his new film, he once again walks the fine line between clever and purposefully stupid: "Brüno," the big-screen venture of Cohen's third creation -- a gay Viennese fashion reporter -- follows the undercover comedian as he stages confrontations with homophobic rednecks and vapid stylistas. Is the actor a genius or just a guy whose gonzo-comedy gimmick is about to jump the shark. MSN contributors David Fear and Frank Paiva duke it out over the pros and cons of Cohen.
The tagline for "Brüno" is "'Borat' was so 2006." But that slogan is inaccurate; "Borat" is actually so 2000. And that's about the last time Sacha Baron Cohen's characters were funny.
Cohen is clearly a talented man, and I thought he was terrific in "Talladega Nights" and "Sweeney Todd." But I find his three trademark characters aimless, artless, and annoying. They're like if Allen Funt were a sadistic douchebag. He simply screws people in an attempt to be shocking. (I can watch that at home on VH1 for free.)
And frankly, I don't think Cohen's humor is as outrageous as he thinks it is. Sticking a toy car in your anus just to see the X-ray like they did in the "Jackass" movie is outrageous. Divine eating dog poop at the end of "Pink Flamingos" is outrageous. Getting sideswiped by a naked Asian gangster with a crowbar who jumps out of your trunk like in "The Hangover" is outrageous. Setting up a bunch of pompous celebrities or below-average-intelligence people in a controlled environment in which they're almost guaranteed to have a certain anticipated reaction is simply stacking the deck.
I mean really: Is there any easier target than Paula Abdul?
Easier targets than a former pop star/"American Idol"'s resident harpy? Hmm, let's see ... how about "polite" xenophobes, hypocritical faux-populist politicians, racists, sexists, dumb-ass frat dudes, the uptight Left and the dangerous Far Right. These have been the folks who've bore the brunt of Cohen's gonzo-guerilla attack, and given the results over the past 11 years, I'd say they've made for fairly "easy" -- and effective -- targets.
And seriously: Two naked men, one of whom might charitably called overly chubby, running naked through a conference isn't outrageous?!? Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing Cohen take on paranoid, Prop-8-passing homophobes, which I'd argue deserve every embarrassing moment they'll undoubtedly get here. And that's what his satire boils down to: taking these types to task.
Read their entire argument here.