Did I laugh?
Yes… A lot.
Did I cringe?
Yes… A lot.
Were they often at the same time?
Yes… Nearly always.
There’s no question that Sacha Baron Cohen (AKA Ali G, Borat, and Bruno) is not for everybody. He’s made his career not so much by amusing the public as by amusing himself at the public’s expense.
He specializes in acting outrageous in front of unsuspecting passers-by and videotaping their reactions. Sometimes he manages to catch people in the act of behaving very badly, or displaying bigotry or bias. Sometimes he just gets people who are very rationally reacting to someone who is, to all appearances, a complete lunatic.
If you saw Borat, you pretty much know what to expect here, though of course, there is much more of a focus on gay jokes, nudity and attempting to evoke homophobia in the unsuspecting participants. (Which, more’s the pity, is usually not super-hard to do.)
That said, the lengths to which he’s willing to go to make his jokes are really astounding, and occasionally terrifying, but I almost always had a nervous smile on my face and plenty of uncomfortable laughter, which I’m certain, is exactly what Cohen was going for.
P.S. An anecdote…
While seeing this movie, I had an experience that was truly surreal, almost worthy of one of Cohen’s own skits. A few minutes before the movie started, a very proper-looking, 40-something woman walked in with four children in tow: All boys, in the 8-10 years old range.
If my understated review has not already made it clear, this movie is probably the least-appropriate movie for children that is possible short of actual hard-core pornography. Perhaps even less appropriate than that.
The most likely backstory to this, of course, is that the boys had misled their guardian (probably the mother of one of them) into taking them to a movie she knew nothing about. Frankly, I hope that’s the case, because frankly, the possibility that there is a woman out there who could knowingly bring four 9-year-olds to this movie scares the hell out of me.
So the question in my mind was not IF they would walk out, but WHEN?
And the crazy thing is that the first half-hour, (which contains a LOT of nudity, a LOT of simulated gay sex, and a LOT of what could charitably called “mature situations”), was not what drove them out. No, they stayed through all of that, but then, the nudity and sex calm down a bit and Bruno attempts to start bringing about peace in the middle-east by getting an Israeli and a Palestinian to agree that hummus is healthy.
And THAT’S when they left.
I don’t even know what to make of that.