Bruno is an Austrian television personality with his own show. When he destroys a fashion designer's show at Milan Fashion Week, he is fired, his Asian pygmy boyfriend dumps him and he has to reevaluate his life. He quickly decides to travel to Hollywood, to become famous. His assistant, Lutz (Gustav Hammarsten), whose love for Bruno remains unrequited, follows him and they set about trying to make Bruno famous. Their first step is to find an agent. Bruno will interview the biggest stars in the world and make a pilot for his new television show. He sets up an interview with Paula Abdul who is a bit shocked when she learns she is expected to sit on top of a Mexican Gardener posing as a chair (Bruno and Lutz don't have furniture yet). When they show the pilot to a test group, it becomes apparent Bruno was unable to find any celebrities and he sets off on a cross-country journey to meet people and try to become famous.
Bruno is quite a character. Cohen has a twisted mind and there seems to be nothing he won't do or try to generate a laugh. There is a short sequence at the top of the film depicting Bruno and his boyfriend having sex and it is pretty twisted and shocking, which makes it all the more funny. But the film is also appropriately rated "R". Even though they blur out a lot of things, they also seem to leave many shocking images in.
As the film gets going, you begin to experience a sense of déjà vu. Especially when Bruno begins his cross-country journey and starts to insinuate himself into the lives of real people who don't realize he is playing a character. This is exactly what made "Borat" so fresh and funny. And it works here as well. Bruno meets up with some hunters in a rural town and shares an interesting conversation with them around the campfire one night. Later, he stumbles across a swingers club and a dominatrix who wants Bruno bad. These are funny bits, but they just seem a bit recycled.
Also, it seems like "Bruno" is suffering from sloppy storytelling. "Let's have Bruno do this…" Actually, I get the sense the filmmakers came up with a number of situations first, found the real people this fictional character would interact with and then pieced them together using a thin, poorly constructed story. It makes no sense that Bruno would go to LA, start working on a television show, and when that falls apart, travel cross country looking to interview people and interact with them in their real lives.
Each of Cohen's characters seems designed to illustrate a common prejudice in America. Bruno is a very gay man and doesn't hide it from anyone; he almost seems to use "I'm gay" as a badge of honor when meeting new people. Cohen and David put Bruno is a number of situations designed to illicit a real reaction from people. Like Borat, Bruno goes over the top, on many occasions, but this only seems to make people open up more and reveal more about who they actually are. But Borat did essentially the same thing. He is racist and people revealed their racist leanings to him, believing him to be a sympathetic soul. A brilliant, and daring, concept for a film so soon after 9/11. Part of the genius of these characters is watching them react to the real people, egging them on in a way. But In "Bruno", a lot of this seems predictable. When Paula Abdul enters Bruno's house, for her interview, she appears uncomfortable and clueless when she has to sit on a Mexican gardener. But doesn't she always appear like this? How different is this from her real self?
Don't get me wrong. "Bruno" is easily the funniest film of the summer. But it isn't the groundbreaking film that "Borat" was. And it is disappointing that so much of it seems to be recycled.