A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mockumentary from comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is even edgier and more sexually explicit than his previous outing, Borat. It's full of intentionally shocking material, including a startling amount of nudity (both male and female full-frontal), as well as actual sex acts (black bars block out genital areas) and lots of discussion about both sex and sexuality. And then there's the strong language (from "f--k" to "p---y"), violence (including a bloody Ultimate Fighting event), drinking, and drug references. Bottom line? Cohen's point is to expose intolerance with his extreme antics, but he does it not by just pushing the envelope, but rather setting it on fire.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Austrian fashion correspondent Bruno (Sacha Baron Cohen), exiled form his job covering the world of fashion and design, heads to America to try to become a celebrity -- assisted by his associate producer Lutz (Gustav Hammerstein), who loves Bruno from afar. When Bruno tries to carry out attention-getting antics like adopting an African baby, creating a charity single, and fostering peace in the Middle East, his failure inspires him to look deep within his soul and question what really matters.
Is it any good?
It's hard to have a bad time watching BRUNO -- the comedic daring that Cohen brings to the process is just too intense to ignore. But, at the same time, it's also hard to not compare the film to Borat and find it wanting. What was once fresh now feels recycled, and Bruno has a much less coherent story than Borat's coast-to-coast journey.
Director Larry Charles still has a hand on how to craft this kind of material -- ambush interviews of unsuspecting people, moments where Bruno is pitted against the mob armed with nothing more than the misplaced courage of his idiotic convictions, and gags designed to shock -- but neither he nor Cohen nor their army of writers seem to have thought as much about the shape of the story as they did about individual bits. Episodic, scattershot, and a little unfocused, Bruno is sporadically funny, but it's hard to not think that the howls of controversy it generates will be louder than the audience's laughter.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the heterosexual Cohen's portrayal of the flamboyantly homosexual Bruno -- is it a broad, silly character or an offensive stereotype? Does a character like Bruno -- created to confront -- encourage people to talk about controversial issues or confirm prejudices?
Families can also talk about whether filming interview subjects who don't know they're part of a comedy is funny or cruel. Does Bruno's mockery of ignorance help the people he targets understand his point, or are they clueless "victims" of his humor?
And families can talk about the film's satire of celebrity culture -- are there people who will do anything to be famous? If so, what do they get from that sacrifice?
- In theaters: July 10, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: November 17, 2009
- Cast: Bono, Gustaf Hammarsten, Sacha Baron Cohen
- Director: Larry Charles
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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