Home > Movies > Comedies For The Gays And The Straights: Reviews Of ‘Brüno’ And ‘The Proposal’

Comedies For The Gays And The Straights: Reviews Of ‘Brüno’ And ‘The Proposal’

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If Borat is a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, then consider Brüno…well, he’s basically the equivalent to Paris Hilton. The inhibition-less, flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista (as played by Sacha Baron Cohen) considers himself God’s gift to man (or men more appropriately) and is about as self-absorbed as any of the girls on My Super Sweet 16.

The movie opens with his ousting from the elite Euro fashion world after a disastrous runway incident involving a suit made of velcro. Faster than you can say “wiener wchnitzel”, Brüno sets out, along with his ever-faithful assistant’s assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten), on a journey to the United States. His goal? To become “über famous”. How? By any means necessary.

bruno21Brüno follows the same basic structure of Cohen’s last prank-filled, docu-style opus Borat and brings with it much of the same creative team. Larry Charles is back as director along with returning screenwriters Cohen, Anthony Hines and Dan Mazer (Peter Baynham is the only new one). This may be why the film loses some of its shock value and rawness. We’ve been here before.

There hadn’t been anything much like Borat at the time of its release in 2006, and now Cohen and co. are looking for ways to top the bar that they set. In Brüno, there is twice the profanity, three times the squirm-inducing pranks and twenty times the nudity. And I must admit, for all its obvious gimmicks and lack of freshness, I laughed a lot more.

Most of the gags are executed perfectly. Take the infamous Ron Paul scene. The sight of the former Republican Presidential candidate being unwittingly seduced by Brüno in a dingy motel room is bizarre and hilarious. Cohen also pokes fun at Paula Abdul (an easy target), stage parents, gay converters, rednecks, swingers, the U.S. Army and celebrities who adopt African babies.  He names his infant O.J., much to the horror the black talk show audience of The Richard Bay Show.

Like Borat, Brüno uncovers many not-so-hidden prejudices that Americans can’t seem to let go of (especially down south). In a way, Cohen’s guerilla-style comedy captures certain elements of society better than a “real” documentary could. Brüno is a relentless provocateur who exposes how strange and divided this culture is by gender roles, homophobia and racism.

Of course, all of this analysis might be going overboard. Cohen, himself, has never alluded to the idea that is anything more than a comedy. To me, it’s sort of a mash-up of a Michael Moore documentary and Zoolander. Whether it gets certain viewers to take a deep look at their own prejudices or not, the movie is at least an entertaining and hysterical 81 minutes. In a summer of such joyless yarns as Land of the Lost and Year One, that’s pretty admirable.

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There’s something off about The Proposal, a new romantic comedy directed by Anne Fletcher and written by Peter Chiarelli . It’s so wholly unoriginal and uninspired that it feels dated the moment the opening credits begin. I didn’t get the feeling that I was watching a movie in 2009. More like 1989. Even then the plot about an outrageous lie spiraling out of control would have the-proposal-posterseemed tired.

It’s okay, though. Audiences know what they’re in for. Couples go to see movies like The Proposal for comfort: they usually want something cutesy, predictable and safe, so as not to make their date go into awkward territory. By these standards, Brüno would be considered an anti-date movie.

What else can I say? It is well made, I suppose. And the casting is good. Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson and, best of all, Betty White prove to be a winning ensemble. But, besides a few humorous one-liners (such as when White compares Bullock’s boobs to easter eggs), there’s just not enough life in the material.

It appears as if The Proposal‘s sole purpose is to make Touchstone Pictures a lot of moolah. And that it has. I’d go into more details about the plot, which revolves around a pushy boss marrying her hapless assistant so that she can obtain a green card, but what’s the point? If the filmmakers don’t care, then I don’t either.       

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