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‘Bruno’ will boom but hopefully fade

Sacha Baron Cohen needs a new shtick

Universal has banned reviews of “Bruno” for another week, but the blogosphere is already steeped in commentaries and rumors: Is the film being re-edited? Are scenes being reshot?

The answer is no, but having seen the film Monday, and vowing to respect the review date, I cannot resist making one quick appeal:

Please, Sacha, no more Borats.

I realize this film is titled “Bruno” and the central character is a gay Austrian, not a crazed Kazakh, but Bruno and Borat are essentially the same character — they’re offshoots of the brilliant and bizarre subconscious of Sacha Baron Cohen.

The artifice is also the same: Bruno, like Borat, goes out into the world and interviews people who don’t know who he is. Except this time, given Borat’s mythic fame, the audiences may not believe that folks fall for the stunt. In some cases (as with former presidential candidate Ron Paul), the setup is painful, not funny.

That’s actually true of much of “Bruno.” As the critics will surely tell us, there are some brilliantly funny moments, and the new, gay Borat is an inspired clown.

But some also will complain that it’s almost a one-joke comedy. We hear (and regrettably see) much of Bruno’s “arschenhaller” (that’s an Austrian butt) and many shots of his “kugels and kugelsack” (that’s an Austrian scrotum, folks). Bruno’s domestic crises involve things like waxing his “arschenhaller” so clumsily that he glues himself to his bed.

Cohen admires Charlie Chaplin, but Chaplin’s wit was usually gentle, even romantic. The humor in “Bruno” is cruel; many of the moments make you wince, not laugh, as when a group of ferocious mothers line up to solicit photo ops for their young children and will clearly stop at nothing to get their payday.

I think this will be Bruno’s only movie, and Sacha will hopefully go on to a brilliant career. Like “Borat,” “Bruno” will resound in a loud ka-ching. Now it’s time for Sacha to move on before he becomes a pain in the arschenhaller.

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