Who? Sacha Baron Cohen (gay), Gustaf Hammarsten (gay), The American Public (homophobic)
What’s it about? Fired from über-shallow Austrian TV fashion show ‘Funkyzeit’, Brüno heads to LA with his assistant (Hammarsten) to become “the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler”. From here on in, in terms of format, it’s practically identical to Borat, as Baron Cohen blunders through a succession of awkward encounters, pitched to unsuspecting Americans as cultural acclimatisation. How awkward? He tries to seduce Republican Congressman Ron Paul by locking him in a hotel room and dancing about in a thong. He enrages a Lebanese terrorist chief by likening Osama Bin Laden to “a homeless Santa Claus”. He sets up a cage-fighting event in deepest Arkansas, then has beer and metal chairs hurled at him after things take a turn for the fruity. It sounds like a string of cheap gay jokes. But it’s more than that. And it’s hilarious.
What’s good about it? Strip away the “it’s funny because he’s gay” moments and you’ll find a complex satire on the superficiality of the worlds of fashion, showbiz and celebrity. A conversation with a pair of brainless charity PR girls is a particularly cringeworthy highlight, as they place Darfur “somewhere in Iraq.” Prefer your humour less sophisticated? At the other end of the scale, there’s a bedroom montage involving Brüno, his Filipino boyfriend and a champagne bottle. The wide end.
What’s bad about it? Though there’s no doubting the steeliness of Baron Cohen’s balls, some scenes clearly involve actors, or are edited out of context for effect. The bit with the belt-slinging swinger that ends with Brüno jumping out of a window, for example, stinks of a set-up. That’s not to say it’s not still funny, just less satisfying than the rest. The Nazi gags tire pretty quickly, too.
Verdict: So, better than Borat? No. But easily just as good, and twice as outrageous. And since it’s essentially a spiritual sequel – Borat 2: Borat Shaves His Moustache Off And Wears Tight Pants, perhaps – that’s very surprising indeed.
BONUS: Here's what happened when our mates at Empire caught up with the man himself...