By Rodrigo Perez
Must ... resist ... urge ... to ... wax ... hyperbolically. ... Failure ... appears ... imminent. A jaw-on-the-floor wow. Sacha Baron Cohen has done it again, delivering another WMD slam dunk of hysterically subversive mocku-comedy.
Universal Pictures screened 22 minutes of "Brüno" during the SXSW Fantastic Fest. In the movie, Cohen assumes the character of the flamboyantly gay Austrian TV reporter from his famed "Da Ali G Show," and from what we could tell from those glorious and deliciously wrong-yet-oh-so-right clips, Cohen has pushed the button to push all buttons. The stakes are higher, and Cohen seems to be flirting with a more dangerous powder keg of humor, the likes of which we've never seen before.
"Brüno" somehow makes "Borat" look like child's play, upping the ante on Cohen's aggressively offensive, squirm-worthy hilarity. With a recorded introduction by Cohen himself, the transgressive, outrageous and, at times, stunning footage was broken up into three sections: baby interviews, a fake Jerry Springer-like Texas-based talk show and the Ultimate Fighting Championship face-off (more on these in a sec). In describing each scene, the comedian revealed much of the film's plot. He also noted that all the gut-busting scenes were being shown in a longer form than they would be in the final theatrical version (i.e. with more painfully prolonged exposure to uncomfortably uproarious funniness than doctors would normally recommend).
From what we can recall — our minds being blown and all — Cohen's Brüno character is fired from his job for blowing an Italian fashion-show segment. Distraught, he goes to Hollywood in the hopes of becoming the "most famous Austrian star since Adolf Hitler." As already rumored, in an attempt to fit in with Tinseltown celebrities, Brüno and his boyfriend/assistant David adopt a baby from Africa, which Brüno carries around to appear chic and trendy (a move that seems intended to dis the Madonnas of the world). At some point in the film, Brüno and David split up and he loses custody of the child. Depressed, he tries to reinvent himself as the most aggressively heterosexual man in America to regain custody.
1. The baby interviews: Brüno wants to create an elaborate photo shoot for his newly adopted baby and auditions mothers interested in having their babies appear in the shoot. Interviewing a host of parents, he asks if the babies would be comfortable working with animals ranging from bees to Komodo dragons to snakes. So desperate are the parents to have their children cast, they agree to all of his ludicrous suggestions. Would the babies be OK with being "thrown from a building"? Would they be at ease around "amateur science"? Would the child be comfortable speeding around in an automobile without a car seat? Could they just "wing it"? The mothers consistently reply that each task would be fine. Brüno even suggests to one mother that her 30-pound baby should lose 10 pounds within seven days, and she replies that this is doable. She even suggests that she would consider lipsocution if the baby should fail to lose the weight. Brüno then congratulates the winning mother and tells her that the baby will be dressed up as a Nazi pushing a Jewish baby into an oven. And you thought Borat pushed buttons? "Brüno" obliterates the button with wicked aplomb.
2. The Texas-based talk show "Today With Richard Bay": Brüno appears on a Jerry Springer-like talk show to flaunt his new baby to a mostly African-American audience. He baits the females in the audience, telling them he can get any black man he wants and can easily steal their men. The comedy and anger seem to rise in tandem. After taunting the audience with voguing, posing and boasts of homosexual prowess, Brüno eventually brings on his baby, O.J. (as in Simpson), dressed in little cut-leather chaps and a black T-shirt that has "Gayby" written on it. The audience is aghast when he claims that the baby is a "real dick magnet" and was traded in Africa for an iPod, but a special, pimped-out version — "not just any old iPod," he assures them. The coup de grace is a clearly Photoshopped (thank heavens) photo session of gay hot-tub antics with the baby in tow. The segment ends with the State Child's Service Department coming in and taking the "illegally" adopted child into protective custody. The Austrian has to fight off security in a hysterical rage.
3. The Ultimate Fighting Championship face-off: At this point in the film, Cohen's once ostentatiously homosexual reporter has turned militaristically heterosexual and has created a UFC-like show called "Dave's MAX Out," giving us our first peek at Straight Dave, the newly invented Brüno. Mustachioed, hirsute and decked out in camouflage gear and an outback hat, Straight Dave parades around the ring to AC/DC's "Back in Black," while male spectators cheer him on. This is the gay-loathing party to end all gay-loathing parties. Of course, Straight Dave's uüber-machismo does a 180 right into homoerotic overtones, but this goes over every audience member's head as SD rips female stagehands' clothing to reveal skimpy bikinis.
Then the footage takes a spectacular turn for the worse (better). Think of the scene in "Borat" in which Cohen sings the National Anthem at a Virginia rodeo to an audience that is with him initially and calling for his blood by the end. Brüno is suddenly called out during his show as a "f----t," and an appalled Straight Dave challenges the person who yelled that to step into the ring and fight him. We're not really meant to know who his challenger is, but clearly, it's his ex-boyfriend. They violently fight, pummeling each other bloody, but eventually the former couple, as you can probably guess, patches things up, passionately making out and groping each other to the sounds of Elton John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." It is a sensational moment in cinema not to be forgotten soon. Of course, the outraged audience freaks out, and one glorious slow-motion shot captures an overzealous red-faced fan crying.
The footage ended with Cohen addressing the audience one last time, asking if we liked what we'd seen. If so, "buy a f---ing ticket." The film's take-no-prisoners approach was breathlessly funny, but no doubt some will ask: Has Sacha Baron Cohen gone too far? "Brüno" hits theaters July 10.