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Clounshoo Beholds BRUNO!!

Merrick here...
Back in 2006, when BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN came out, I posted one of the first reviews (if not the first) of the film here on AICN. I can't remember the name of the contributor whose review I posted & can't find that review via our recently improved (but still not entirely adequate) search engine. Shortly after said review was posted, I received a tremendously entertaining (and somewhat lengthy) e-mail about the film from someone close to the production - written in Borat(ish) broken English. I'm not sure who sent that e-mail - perhaps it was even Sacha himself. But, no matter who the author, the wording, creativity, and intelligence evident in the message brought me a newfound appreciation for the richness of the Ali G/Borat/Bruno/Cohenverse. Subsequently, I've become a wiser...considerably more avid...follower of Cohen's work, and I've been very much looking forward to the arrival of BRUNO'as feature film.
Here's a message from Clounshoo, who just caught a test screening of the film.
Hey guys. I just saw a screening of Bruno and figured I’d share my “do not share any information with the media” information with the media. Specifically, Aintitcool! I’ve never sent in any sort of anything to any movie site before, but I’m sick and bored, so I figured I’d spill on what I saw tonight. This will also be a mostly spoiler-free review. First, a little setup. I’m a fan of the show, and a fan of the Borat movie. BAM. That should do it. I saw the Bruno screening tonight in a packed theatre, and of course got the whole “it’s a working edit” chat, but it seemed pretty complete to me. That said, I’ll split my review into three parts; the bad, the good, and the rest. First, the bad. My biggest problem with Borat was that a lot of the material had been recycled from the show, and unfortunately it wasn’t quite as funny the second time around on the big screen. That applies here as well, although not quite as much. Which is good. But not good enough to be in “the good,” although I’ll continue this thought in that section. I think my biggest issue with Bruno, however, is that there are parts that feel too contrived. I feel for the filmmakers a bit (until I remind myself that they are making millions, and I am living on an air mattress), because you can sense a few of the bits almost collapsing due to one specific thing, and that is the fact that Cohen just can’t get away with what he could a few years ago. He’s just too big now. We all heard the stories of him getting busted trying to pull various schemes during shooting, and those all still make it in the film (some with a sort of explanation to make the footage still useable), but you can practically tell some of the reactions they got were not of people aghast at the confusion that was going on, but rather that they knew exactly what was going on. As in, the jig is up. Cohen and the editors try to play it off, but the gut feeling that it isn’t quite working is still there. Speaking of contrivances, quite a bunch of the guerrilla type setups seemed to have been replaced by scripted material, possibly as a direct result of that now lack of anonymity. My problem with that is that they tried to play it off as unplanned. Since this is mostly spoiler-free, I’ll just throw out one part as an example, and that part is the “Hollywood agent.” Bruno shows up in L.A. and meets with an agent, and it doesn’t seem real from the get-go, but it’s played like it is. But it just doesn’t gel with believability, and I think a lot of the realness issue has to do with the Bruno character as a whole. With Borat, a lot of people were willing to let that clueless foreign guy slide because he almost seemed like the type you’d run into in NYC, at least at first. Cohen stays in character, grows a moustache, doesn’t bathe for a week, and the guy is a real person from another land. Bruno pretty much never comes across as that believable. His nature is to be slick, so people are already suspecting. Moving along in “the bad,” and continuing with the believability theme; what the hell was up with Bruno, anyway? He seemed far less organic than the crazy Austrian from the TV show. The only thing I can think of is that it is in fact because this was far more scripted. You’ll know what I’m talking about when the first trailers hit, because it’s prevalent throughout. The voice has been changed, some of the cockiness has been displaced, and some of the meanness has been dropped also. It’s not a big deal, just…different. One last bit of bad, and there is a minor spoiler here. After the actual climax of the film, there is a bonus ---SPOILER--- where Bruno does a charity song about being gay with a bunch of A-list celebrities. There are some big names on the list. The bit in itself isn’t bad, but it was better in pretty much every way the first time we saw it when Jimmy Kimmel did the “I’m fucking Ben Affleck” skit. This was good, that was better. This was funny, that was funnier. It’s kind of a shame the movie ends on that note, and it would probably be better on the cutting room floor because of the comparison, but there are way too many big names for that to happen. ---END SPOILERS--- Ok, on to the good! The good is going to be shorter than the bad because there’s only one major thing you need to know, and that’s that Bruno is funny as hell. It’s very, very funny. It’s crazier than anything you’ve seen in a mainstream theatre, and yes, that includes Borat. I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my life, and I’m pretty jaded, but I saw some images and themes here I have really not seen before, and the surprising thing was how well it went over with the audience. I won’t spoil any of it, but just know that you simply can’t expect what Bruno delivers in some parts. There are some scenes that were so incredibly funny that I, and everyone else, barely kept from dry heaving. ---MINOR SPOILERS--- The focus group scene where Bruno debuts his footage (again, you can’t even begin to imagine what ends up being shown) from his new American celeb show was outstanding. The baby photo shoot and corresponding interview on a local talk show with an all-black audience was also great, as was the extremely gay boyfriend intro scene and the film’s climax, which (even though it looked a bit fake) put a brand new spin on ultimate fighting. ---END SPOILERS--- I mentioned that the whole “recycling things from the TV show” was kinda bad, but the upside of that was that in some cases they were taken even further than you thought they could go, so even though we have seen some of the stuff before, we haven’t seen it as extreme as this. And now, onto the rest. I have a feeling this film is going to polarize people far more than Borat did. I think Bruno will play well in major cities, but I really don’t know if middle America is going to take Bruno the same way and the reason, of course, is the subject matter. With Borat, even the racists got in on the jokes because, let’s face it, Borat hit at a level that people could say “he’s making a point about how intolerant some of us still are,” but he also hit at the “hey bro, he just made fun of Jews by calling them cockroaches and that’s funny RIGHTONMOTHERFUCKER GIMME A FUCKIN PINCH OF CHEW” level. I guess there’s no other way to say this, but the amount of ass fucking and completely gay dick sucking in Bruno is massive. It’s huge. And that’s going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. Which is great! But it will make for poorer box office. I’d like to be proven wrong on that, though. Another aspect of the movie is the racial under and overtones. The ---MINOR SPOILER--- whole sequence where he adopts a black baby to be cool and parades it all over the place is really going to get some people talking. But damn, is it funny. ---END SPOILERS--- The story and plot themselves were ok, and obviously just there to set up the bits. Think Borat, replace the fat assistant with a gay assistant, and instead of a road trip across America, throw in a…well, road trip across America I guess. And there you have it. I’d give the movie a solid 7.5 out of 10 (slightly lower than Borat, which I’d give almost an 8), and it’s surely the funniest thing I’ve seen this year. I suppose you could skip all that shit I wrote and just read this part: Bruno is very, very funny, if not just a bit contrived. And, so the crazy marketing people don’t hunt me down if you post this, please just call me…”Clounshoo.” Thanks!
For those wondering, the message I mention above went MIA during a techno apocalypse. Harry got mad at me for losing it, saying "This is why the universe hates you." I'd been trying to answer that question for a while; at the time it seemed as good a reason as any.

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