dir Larry Charles
scr Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer, Jeff Schaffer
with Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten, Clifford Bañagale, Josh Meyers, Lloyd Robinson, Gary Williams, Jody Trautwein, Paul Cameron, Paula Abdul, Richard Bey, Miguel Sandoval, Harrison Ford
release US/UK 10.Jul.09
09/US Universal 1h23
On the prowl: Baron Cohen
Ali G In Da House (2002) Borat (2006)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
bruno Sacha Baron Cohen brings a third alter ego (after ALI G and BORAT) to the big screen with this often painfully funny comedy. This time only a few scenes are strictly documentary, and the best bits are when he tackles serious issues in provocative-amusing ways.

After a fashion-show disaster, Austrian TV host Bruno (Baron Cohen) is fired from his show Funkyzeit. So he decides to become a big star in America instead. He tries just about everything, from working as an extra in Medium to testing his own pilot series. Next he adopts a celebrity cause (peace in the Middle East), tries to get TV coverage as a terrorist kidnapee, adopts an African baby and then visits a gay converter so he can become a straight star like his heroes Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kevin Spacey.

This film's plot groans even louder than Borat's as it strains to draw together the disparate sketches and incidents. The central narrative is an almost exact copy of Borat, tracing Bruno's strained relationship with his personal assistant Lutz as they travel around America. Clearly most of this is staged, as it's shot from too many angles to be authentic. But the script is seriously inspired, including peppering Bruno's dialog with German words and references to that other notorious Austrian.

Baron Cohen is an astonishingly focussed performer; we have no idea how he doesn't crack a smile. The funniest scene is his slapstick encounter with a dominatrix. And the sequence featuring Abdul and some deeply incorrect makeshift furniture is witty without pushing it. Many scenes elicit whimpers of revulsion, which of course makes them even funnier. Although some scenes go too far, such as when he corners presidential candidate Ron Paul or when he attends a swingers' party. Other bits start out well, but overstay their welcome.

The film becomes more than an uproarious comedy as it comments on some important issues, from the desperation for fame (parents auditioning their babies for a shocking photo shoot) to rampant prejudice and judgmentalism. The film's best scene is the eight-months-later climax at an ultimate fighter competition, which catches the American predilection for violence over compassion in an extremely eerie way. And the star-studded closing theme song is simply genius.

cert 18 themes, language, nudity, violence 22.Jun.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall