Brüno Larry Charles

Brüno Larry Charles
When it was announced that British character comedian Sacha Baron Cohen would follow up surprise 2006 smash Borat with another "gotcha" comedy ― this time centred upon his gay fashionista character Brüno ― scepticism was warranted. After all, Cohen had accomplished the trick the first time as a relative unknown, and the physical differences between them amount to little more than hair. Yet, as director Larry Charles and Cohen himself reveal in a fascinating commentary track, pretty much no one called him on the Borat connection while filming across the U.S. That's a testament to Cohen's remarkable acting chops, and his uncanny ability to stay in character throughout some seriously volatile circumstances. (A late-film MMA showcase turns gay, and then nearly violent.) While Borat played mostly on average Americans' suspicion of "otherness," as well as their self-perception that they're open-minded people, Brüno is a much more in-your-face act, occasionally literally. The flamboyant fashion reporter comes to America to become famous (or at least a celebrity, a subtle but important distinction to the overall critique at play here) and in doing so, attempts to challenge every assumption Americans have of famous people, homosexuality and the herd mentality of "everyone's doing it." It's not funnier than Borat ― in part because the sheer shock value has worn off ― but it is more challenging and subversive. Targets this time are more B-list familiar than just average citizens: Paula Abdul, politician Ron Paul and several models are subjected to in-film humiliation, and deleted scenes reveal Pete Rose, LaToya Jackson and politicians, from a former UN Ambassador to the first head of Homeland Security, were also "victims." There's quite a pile of variations on deleted/extended/alternate scenes ― many are less successful riffs on final cut gags ― but it's the commentary by Cohen and Charles that's worth a look. For the first time, they reveal exactly how they pulled off various stunts (often guerrilla style, and in small chunks) and who was in on the joke (Sting, Snoop Dogg) and who wasn't (the unfortunate cast of Medium, on which Brüno tries to appear as an extra). It's the most honest peek behind the curtain you'll get at the wizard that is Sacha Baron Cohen. (Universal)