Bruno (Sacha Baron Cohen) is an Austrian television presenter who enjoys good ratings on his show, which concerns itself with the world of fashion and what is most important there: what is "in" and what is "out". Unfortunately for him, he quickly finds himself "out" when his programme is cancelled, leaving him at a loss of what to do, and to make matters worse his boyfriend leaves him at the same time. But then Bruno has a brainwave: he will travel to America and set himself up as a celebrity there, with his own show...
And that's not all who was set up in this spiritual follow-up to Cohen's Borat, as he and his team employed the same Candid Camera style of comedy taken to extremes as he endeavoured to make this all as uncomfortable for the participants as possible. It was all meant to be authentic-looking, but some had misgivings about the truth of the situations he engineered: for a start, did those victims not notice there was a camera pointed at them? Certainly in some scenes there was a reason for a documentary crew to be filming the main character, but at others surely it would be realised that something was not on the level?
If you could get past the creeping artificiality of the results (though Cohen claimed only Harrison Ford was in on the joke) then the serious intent could be appreciated. You had to have a pretty strong sense of humour for this, but that was the point: that there was such anti-gay bigotry in the world only those who were relaxed about such issues would truly find this funny, and on the evidence this lot found, there was precious few of them about. Then again, it was difficult to take this perhaps as sincerely as they might have wanted the audience to when the tone was consistently ridiculous throughout.
Basically this was a load of daft, but near the knuckle gags strung together, yet in its way, with a less hamfisted approach to its subject than Borat's examination of endemic racism, Bruno was far funnier. Not everyone agreed, as the previous film had been embraced by many across the world in its "Let's laugh at the stupid Americans" way, even by those Americans who were the targets, which proved they were not as stupid as Cohen and company would have led you to believe. Bruno, however, in his homosexuality, was a trickier proposition, and Cohen looked to be loving every minute of his provocation, which meant presumably every bad reaction was worth ten good ones in his view.
But this was still very amusing in places simply due to the writers' sense of the absurd being better applied this time around. All of the culture they could find was filtered through Bruno's determinedly shallow lens, so we had celebrities confronted by their do-gooding, politicians with their willngness to go with any photo opportunity, the fashion world with their inherent frippery, and the man (or woman) in the street with their tolerance for people outside of their day-to-day experience. Only a few seemed truly deserving of Cohen's ridicule, with the psychic and the preachers who professed to turn gays straight among the better examples, yet at other times it's little wonder that the subjects wished to get as far away from Bruno as possible because he really went out of his way to rile them. Still, there were successes in amongst the essential superiority that marked out Cohen's humour: if you didn't laugh at the cock barking the title this was not the film for you. Music by Erran Baron Cohen.