When it comes to awful movies, Pat Buchanan once quipped he didn't have to look underneath a manhole cover to know there's a sewer down below. The smutty new movie "Bruno" can be read by its cover. In the midst of a barrage of crude sexual humor, master satirist Sacha Baron Cohen is once again exposing Americans for what Time magazine calls their "ignorance and prejudice, hypocrisy and primitive rage."
Yes, I'm sure it has its funny moments, and some are laugh-out-loud hilarious. I say I'm sure because I really don't know. I was on my way to the theater when I reversed course. I'm not going to give these slimy people $9.50, or $1.50. Besides, it's all there on the Internet.
In his last film, "Borat," Cohen played an idiotic journalist from Kazakhstan who attempted to expose unsuspecting people as misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic. The new title character of "Bruno" is a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter who is going to expose the raging "homophobia" in America, especially the South (also targeted in the last film).
But this character is so unbelievably stupid and self-absorbed that the film seems to set the cause of sexual "liberation" backward by a decade or two.
The shock and disgust arrives early, when Bruno has a tiny Asian lover who helps him pour champagne. It's not hard to imagine where Cohen places the champagne bottle as he pours the little man like a teapot.
Bruno decides to come to America and make a pilot of a new celebrity-interview show. But since Bruno is an idiot and can't land a celebrity interview, we're left with a scene where a focus group watches as Cohen's pilot displays a long, drawn-out shot of a penis twirling around like a pinwheel, which then points at the camera and "speaks."
The focus group speaks for almost everyone when they suggest they'd rather pluck their eyes out than watch any more of this garbage.
"Bruno" originally drew an NC-17 rating, but the viewer is left wondering if putting a tiny black box over sex acts, real or simulated (like group sex at a swingers club) is all Cohen needed to get an R rating. This film's full-frontal nudity and gross-out clips are more than a permissive parent bringing a teenager will expect.
It's not a huge hit with audiences -- it "flamed out in its second weekend," the website Box Office Mojo reported, without a wink. But it will make enough profit in theatres and on DVD to offer Cohen another opportunity to abuse unsuspecting Americans with his film droppings.
And maybe that's what's more upsetting than the smuttiness. It is the systematic dishonesty. Cohen's filmmaking strategy is to lie relentlessly to the real people he interacts with on film.
Take Alabama pastor Jody Trautwein, who earnestly tries in the film to convert Bruno to leave his homosexual lifestyle in favor of Christianity. As the pastor talks of following Jesus, Cohen has his idiot character talk dirty, asking if the pastor had ever put woodwind instruments "up your Auschwitz"? (Cohen, who is Jewish, uses the name of the concentration camp as a synonym for anus in the film.)
Now, here's how Trautwein explains how he was approached about the scene. On Jan. 30, 2009, he received a phone call from a Todd Lewis of Amesbury Chase productions in Los Angeles (a fake firm, complete with phony website). He told him that German One Television (also fake) had hired them to produce a documentary. He said that with the recent rise in Europe of liberalism and increasing immorality in America, German One really wanted to show strong, pure American traditional moral values.
"One of the ways they wanted to do this was they had a young man who was desiring to come out of homosexuality and wanted to give his heart to Christ," Trautwein explained. "He asked me if I would be interested in having them produce this documentary [meant to] alert parents and leaders of young people, and expose the deception and perversion that some in the entertainment industry want to perpetrate against our children, our families and our homes."
Trautwein sat with Cohen's character for two entire hours, absorbing Cohen's abuse. The pastor said director Larry Charles (who only used his first name) praised him when the abuse was over. "He said he didn't think he could have been that patient with Bruno."
So a good pastor is set up and ridiculed because, well, because he's a good man, and nothing else. That's humor?