In 2006 Sacha Baron Cohen burst into the public domain with his character and movie Borat. The strangely likable Kazakhstan news reporter had audiences howling (myself included, at least upon first viewing) in the aisles of movie theatres across the world. But as Cohen's new shock-fest comedy states in its tagline - "Borat was so 2006." So is Brüno funnier and more shocking than Borat? More shocking? Absolutely. Funnier? Absolutely not.
The films follows the titular Brüno, a gay and very flamboyant Austrian fashionista who takes a trip to the US in an attempt to become famous. In much the same style as Borat, Brüno sees its main character (amongst other things) interviewing and confronting various different people including political leaders, anti-gay protesters and movie agents, often with shocking results.
The key to Cohen's character of Borat was that he was believable as a genuine fish out of water, coming from his known Kazakhstan home town to the United States. He was also weirdly likeable despite some of his words and actions. But the problem with the character of Brüno is he's not believable as a real person, and only serves as a tool to construct these awkward and often shocking situations. He's also a bit of an a-hole, and therefore it's hard to root for him in his journey to become famous.
Borat also felt like a real and true movie, with a story that you could follow and a main character you could root for. But with Brüno the story is half-baked and tacked on, and only there to serve as a semi-structured container for the shocking content Cohen presents us with here. And there is so much of that, almost to the point of overkill. The whole movie feels set-up, even getting to the point where it's questionable whether or not all of the scenes were really genuine, and not, in part, manufactured for effect. Whether or not that's true I don't know if we'll ever know, but it certainly takes away from the effect of the supposedly true reactions of the people Brüno is in the scene with.