'Bruno' Is On His Way
Bruno poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published April 4, 2008
Word has hit the net about Bruno, Cohen's follow-up to Borat where he is now taking on the role of his other alter-ego personality – the openly gay fashion expert who will come to America and have a similar journey as Borat.
After Sacha Baron Cohen's comic creation Borat turned in $130 million domestically at the box office, I think everyone's eyes were on the potential sequel, or whichever character he decided to turn to next -- whether it be a remake of the horrible straight-to-DVD Ali G movie, or a movie version of Bruno, his other character on his cult HBO cable series. I hated the Ali G in Da House flick, but if re-written and re-planned, that could make one hell of a movie for a second shot.

Word has hit the net about Bruno, Cohen's follow-up to Borat where he is now taking on the role of his other alter-ego personality – the openly gay fashion expert who will come to America and have a similar journey as Borat. A tidbit was recently leaked online about Cohen being on the set of Bruno, wearing offbeat attire, one detail of which included him sporting a G-string. This guy really knows how to set an impression, and he knows just what to do or what to say (for the press) to get the internet message boards in a scurry. Not only that, but in the last week it was also reported that Ben Affleck had been involved in quite possibly the strangest interview he had ever done, with someone he thought was an outright idiot for the questions being asked.

After a phone conversation with Sarah Silverman after the interview, it hit both of them that Affleck had just been punked by one of today's brightest comedians. In that interview, the interviewer unashamedly asked Affleck what he thought of people of whom you can refer to as the "N" word (and the “N” word was actually used upfront). Silverman, upon hearing Affleck's summary of the odd interview, asked him, stunned: "Was his name Bruno?"

You gotta hand it to Sacha Baron Cohen: If you can gross $130 million and still punk one of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood, unaware, through an interview, you are F'n good. And there's no doubt in my mind that, if and when that clip is shown in theaters, it's going to be one of the big highlights of the movie (I’m betting that that "N" word gag is going to kill with audiences). It sounds like Cohen is reaching back to the days of Blazing Saddles racy humor in that nothing is off limits for the sake of comedy; say or do whatever you want, but let there be a lesson to the madness.

After Borat came out, I feared that Cohen might not be able to live up to the hype the next time considering how high he set the bar. But after hearing these recent tidbits, my anticipation for Bruno has gone up ten fold. Sacha Cohen clearly knows how to pull a joke, and clearly isn't intimidated by expectations; if he were, then Bruno might not have come along for a few years (if he had decided to lay low until some people may have forgotten about him). Just to prove that this guy knows comedy, here’s the title (so far) for Bruno -- brace yourself: “Brüno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt.” Oh boy, are theater marquees going to have a field day with this one (as if last time wasn’t hard enough).

Cohen in many ways is the new Jim Carrey – the new hot young comedian who is willing to do anything for a laugh, physically and verbally. In some ways, Borat was an Ace Ventura, the movie that put Cohen on the map and made everyone quote his dialogue. Bruno could be an Ace Ventura 2 – the explosion – and let's also add while we're at it that this should hopefully be the "good" version of Ace Ventura 2...when studio contracts aren't forcing the actors involved to be involved again. For those unaware, there's a reason Ventura 2 sucked (despite having its moments, it failed to live up to expectations) – director Tom Shadyac and Carrey admitted that they didn't want to do the sequel, but Warner Bros. talked Carrey into it with a different director.

I've already noticed that Bruno is under the helm of Universal, not 20th Century Fox like Borat. And Fox is known for screwing over some filmmakers with their projects. For those unaware, Fox screwed over Mike Judge on Office Space (they didn't have any faith in the movie, and so their marketing campaign sucked as a result), and the movie bombed in theaters. When Office Space became a sensation on video and DVD, and everyone was quoting the movie's dialogue, Fox came back to Mike Judge and asked him for a sequel, and Judge basically gave them the middle finger back.

I applauded Fox for having the guts to take on Borat, and I applauded them even more for not forcing Cohen and director Larry Charles to cut down the material, something I figured might happen along the way. Fox is not known as a risk-raking studio – I haven't overheard any inside stories on this particular matter, but I'd bet that they were pretty skeptical with Borat on paper.

When I first saw Borat in advance, the atmosphere was, in no exaggeration, insane. People were rabid to get in to the theater, and after the first series of early screenings, there was even an added notice on passes that if there was proof that you had seen the movie already, you were going to be denied access in to the theater (thus proving that Fox knew they had a monster on their hands). And based on what I heard from other screenings in addition to my own, audiences lit up in cheers and applause (with arms in the air).

My guess is that Cohen and Universal may not take the early-screening route with Bruno (which is scheduled to open in theaters later this year), since all they probably have to do at this point is control the internet by releasing little tidbits and fans will be just as rabid to see Bruno as they were to see Borat. One interesting question to pose at this stage is whether or not Universal will take a conservative theater release approach for Bruno. Part of what worked in Borat’s favor was being released initially in just 800 theaters, creating mystery and a sense of the unknown as to what this movie was. Moviegoers in the top movie cities could get their piece of Borat, but the rest of America had to wait at least a week. And in the mean time, the question was everywhere: What is this Borat thing that everyone is nuts over? If Bruno opens wide, and by wide I mean upwards of 3,000 theaters, will its box office be huge like a Bruce Almighty, or could such a saturation downplay the overall per-theater average? And if they do go as low as 800 theaters again, is Bruno going to play the same box office formula? Sacha Baron Cohen’s sense of humor is not for everyone, but he’s got a huge niche of rabid fans. Releasing it really wide could be poisonous or a Godsend; it could go either way for them.

Looking ahead beyond Bruno, I’m already panting for Cohen’s comedy, Dinner for Schmucks, in 2009, with the plot: "An extraordinarily stupid man possesses the ability to ruin the life of anyone who spends more than a few minutes in his company." I'm there. I'm sold. I'm ready. Thank you, Sacha Baron Cohen, for likely saving the life of comedy with edgy, racy, envelope-pushing humor that barely anyone around seems to have the guts to do.
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'Bruno' Articles
  • Craig's Bruno review B+
    July 7, 2009    Bruno makes fun of intolerance and good-old-fashioned American stupidity and even though it fails at certain points, it’s still more ambitious than almost anything else out there now. -- Craig Younkin