Sacha Baron Cohen has been the darling of the pre-release press ride of a lifetime now twice in an industry where you are lucky to get a billboard on Melrose. Cohen excels at the flamboyantly vicious, whether hamming it superbly in "Sweeney Todd," thugging out and auditioning in vain for Madonna in her 2000 "Music" video clip, or most famously, pushing the boundaries of immigrant acceptance in "Borat."
But while "Borat" was controversially celebrated, "Bruno" is faced with an unfortunate dilemma: it is in danger to not be liked simply because it is not cool to like it.
As much as I have read in other reviews or blogs, there is a plot and a fairly consistent one. Despite the fact that there are clearly chapters (others have called them a string of skits) to Bruno's story, it follows an exact one: Bruno would like to be famous (again, actually) and has come to America to achieve this dream and overextends his welcome in each scenario by being that irritating, irrational, or inept.
Bruno doesn't play fair, and you have to either accept that or be indignant that there is true cruelty in his pushing and pushing with no concern for peoples' feelings.
Bruno unapologetically appeals to the lowest common denominator in comedy: embarrassing other people for laughs. Indeed, some of the targets are downright satisfying (the God Hates Fags group doesn't get much screen time but that's likely because they didn't want to be around two gay men dressed in handcuffed gear, tied to each other) but it somewhat needlessly pushes the buttons of people who have certainly not displayed any deserving of being one-upped.
Despite Bruno's frequent lewdness, Ron Paul sticks it out for an interview as long as he can, an ex-gay minister who is actually fairly polite if squirmingly naive is trying to help, a southern hunting trio accepts Bruno's presence until he outright demands their nonacceptance through unwarranted seduction methods, and even other sexual minorities (swinging hetero couples, a dominant female) are treated somewhat unfairly after ground rules were already established.
Anyone who says that he makes it more likely for people not to accept gays in the military, gays adopting, or even just gay romanticism is giving a dick joke movie too much power when in other circumstances, it would not be. Yes, the film is ludicrous and that is part of the Thomas Swiftian satire (the homosexuals can be cured if they engage in ultimate fighting cage matches and flaunt their heterosexuality as much as possible)--no one is saying that the utter douche archetype in "40 Year Old Virgin" or "Superbad" has set back the course in heterosexuality.
And Bruno doesn't want acceptance; his homosexuality is essentially a Prada bag; very real in its existence, but superficial, something to impress upon others, and eventually determined to be so very last season. It never occurs to Bruno to march in a gay pride parade, petition for the reform of Don't Ask/Don't Tell, or engage in any number of socially aware activities for His Community--largely because Bruno finds no community with the gay folk, or hetero folk, or any folk.
Most importantly to remember, in spite of the likely swarm of offended GLBT, Bruno does not speak for anyone but himself. He's not an activist. He's basically socially retarded. You don't want this man on your side.
Bruno is a brazen character, but his motivation is never to explore beyond his sexuality, because it's simply who he is. There is nothing to accept; he does not care whether you like him or not, nor does he state at any point "I like these things because I am gay." No, there are heterosexuals into S&M play, stupid TV antics, and fixation on becoming famous. Just because Bruno's doing these things while naked and gay, it must be noted, that stripped from the male/male concept, this would still be a palatable, mainstream Judd Apatow film. Switch genders and Sarah Silverman would've comfortably fit in the role.
As an actual film, it is well-edited and well acted by Bruno--uh, Cohen, who only once or twice betrays himself with a smirk. He is consistent and a fully developed character, even without much of a public backstory. In terms of storytelling, it goes for the outrageous outright so the believability factor (that someone would actually be so persistently stupid and calculated in his decision-making) is both inadequate and (we'd like to hope) unlikely. So that, mixed with the central meanness of the concept, is a bit off-putting. As a social experiment, however, it is quite fascinating, especially when considering that the results are unabashedly skewed--just like any other social experiment.
I will also argue that any film that contains a scene where Paula Abdul is unwittingly served sushi on a large Hispanic man's naked body, is a film that defies diplomacy. It's okay to laugh; she signed a release.