BRÜNO: The Film Babble Blog Review

BRÜNO (Dir. Larry Charles, 2009) Approaching the theater (Mission Valley in Raleigh) minutes before midnight, my wife and I heard many complaints coming from the crowds of college aged kids (many younger than that) mulling about in and around the line for BRÜNO. Apparently no beer was to be sold at the concession stand for the showing. There was a sign in the window of the box office booth confirming this. My wife said “it must be because of nudity” and she was, of course, right – NC Statue 18B-1005.1 forbids the sale of alcohol on premises providing “entertainment by any person whose genitals are exposed”. When a particularly jolting close-up of full-frontal (and full screen) male nudity hit the screen (accompanied by pounding rave music of course), she leaned towards me and remarked “that’s why we’re not able to drink.”

BRÜNO is Sacha Baron Cohen’s new feature length vehicle for a character from his infamous albeit brief running D Ali G Show (2000) now presented because, as the ads state, “BORAT is so 2006″. The character Brüno (there is even an umlaut over the “U” in the Universal logo at the beginning) is a flaming homosexual Austrian TV fashion reporter whose sole purpose is to get up in the face of uptight straight people and make a scene. A series of these scenes, in mockumentary format, makes up a movie as it did with BORAT. It seems that here, Cohen and director Charles intend to offend everybody that BORAT didn’t get to. While Borat came to America in order to document “cultural learnings”; Brüno comes here to become famous. He goes through every conceivable celebrity trend to achieve this goal including adopting an African baby (actually trading for him with an iPod) deciding upon a charity to lend his name to. Darfur, he accesses is taken, so he wants to know what’s going to be “Dar-five”.

There are many laughs throughout BRÜNO, even if you can see them coming a mile away. Baron Cohen’s intense commitment to the character and quick comic timing make just about every obvious set-up tick, and there’s such a strongly silly drive behind it all that’s impossible to deny. But if you thought BORAT was a bit much in the crude provocative department, this is likely to be way in the red zone for your sensibilities. The rest of us may feel guilty about laughing at such base (I may be inclined to say “brilliantly base”) material but we’ll still laugh. As for the intended audience, the 18-24 year old crowd which mostly made up the packed theater I attended for example, laughed in loud rawdy rapture. Imagine if there had been alcohol involved.

More later…

Religulous – The Film Babble Blog Review

RELIGULOUS (Dir. Larry Charles, 2008)

A while ago I had an extremely non-religious friend who announced one day that they were going to church the next Sunday. I asked Why? Are you planning on heckling Jesus? Thats what comedian/agitating TV talk show host Bill Maher set out to do as he went out globe-trotting with BORAT director Larry Charles with eyes set on sarcastically deflating followers of all faiths. Well, not all faiths but he goes from Jeruselum to a Truckers Chapel in Raleigh, N.C. to the Vatican (he gets thrown out almost immediately) to Salt Lake City to…you get the idea. He taunts all of his targets with how the tales of “Adam and Eve, 5,000 years ago with a talking snake are so mind bogglingly ridiculous (get the title? Might as well be Religion – Bad!) that it is destroying us as a society to believe them at all.

I once wrote that Michael Moore wasnt really a true documentarian but more a comedian who hi-jacked the documentary format in order to stage his routines and that goes double for Maher. He gives us his own religious background via old family photos and grainy stand-up clips and spends a lot of the film talking directly to the camera. None of the people he speaks to knew it was him that was going to do the interviews and more than once there are protests to the effect of I don’t know what kind of documentary youre making but…. A bit with a man dressed as Jesus at a Florida theme park (pictured above) actually provides some spiritual food for thought as amusingly the guy is never thrown by Mahers quizing. George Carlins can God make a rock so big even he can’t lift it? constantly came to mind while watching this movie (it may have even been quoted – I cant remember) and that is undeniably fitting because Maher is a definite disciple of Carlin.

Unfortunately a lot of this falls flat as Mahers smug nature sabotages some of his strategy. An interview with ExChange Ministries director John Westcott, who considers himself an ex-homosexual, seems to exist just so Maher can be all C’mon! Youre gay! Cheap shots, contradicting subtitles, and an overusage of footage from cheesy TV shows (not sure what point the excerpt from the 1985 Robert Blake show Hell Town was making) and Biblical themed movies all mar (had to go there) the ultimate thesis. Still, there are a lot of laughs throughout and the most lasting impressions are ones that will inspire much discussion and debate for years to come. In taking on theology Maher had his heart and mind in the right place its just too bad his funny bone got in the way.

More later…