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10 July 2009

The Gags Remain the Same

I probably wouldn't have gone to see Brüno if a friend hadn't offered me his spare ticket at the last minute but I have to admit that it was pretty funny. It was grosser than Borat and, probably, funnier (although maybe that's because I've forgotten many of the jokes in the latter by now) but ultimately, it was much less shocking and the shock value, along with the "let's laugh at Americans being racist, sexist, ignorant and just plain stupid" factor, was one of the best bits about Brüno's Khazakstani predecessor. I gave Brüno 7/10 on IMDb (really 6.5, but there are no half-points), which was the same score I gave to Borat when I first saw it.

Borat was released at the cinema in the UK shortly after I had returned from a three-week trip to California and one of my travelling companions was quite obsessed with doing Borat impressions (strangely, it didn't seem to work as a pick-up tactic; funny that). He had been doing them for months but three weeks of them made me decide that I had to actually see the real thing so I went to see Borat at the cinema and yes, it was funny, yes, it was gross, and yes, it was cringe-worthy (though I was cringing far less than most people there).

Bruno was sold out at the Odeon at Marble Arch tonight and the cinema was heaving. We had quite good seats but people still insisted on walking in and out every few minutes (the film isn't even ninety minutes long; do they really need a bathroom break?). The laughter was constant and raucous, as well as a few groans and "oh gods" from the American women sitting behind us; whether they weren't impressed by Brüno's bondage gear and handcuffs or were just embarrassed by their fellow countrymen making fools of themselves on camera, it's hard to say. Amazingly, the film got a round of applause at the end--this is the last time I've seen that happen in the UK since Titanic.

It was quite entertaining and, in a few places, even quite hilarious but it didn't merit the applause because it wasn't anything new. Sure, Brüno wears different costumes from Borat, comes from a different, random country and invites his victims/participants to reveal different prejudices and bigotries, but the mechanisms for achieving the laughs and the groans remain the same: make people feel uncomfortable and out of their depth, then film them making ridiculous comments on camera.

Well, if it ain't broke...


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