Willa, those flaccid penises you mention in Bruno were the only thing I found funny about the film. In fact, I almost walked out, because the movie was so deeply mean-spirited in so many ways. (Spoilers ahead)
Choire Sicha at The Awl already explains how Bruno, a single movie, cannot be good or bad for the gays in our media-inundated culture. But if Sacha Baron Cohen's extreme "gay face" was not meant to root out and condemn homophobia, then what was the point? One could argue that comedy is about pushing boundaries, and that Baron Cohen's hyper-sexual Austrian fashionista is meant as an antidote to mainstream complacency. But when Baron Cohen pushed the limits by trying to trick an unwitting Ron Paul into making a porn with him, it wasn't edgy-it was just mean. Ron Paul didn't do anything to deserve such public humiliation except have a guilible press agent. As A.O. Scott noted in his review of Bruno , it's hard for Baron Cohen to argue that he's fighting against the milquetoast when he has megastars Sting, Bono, and Chris Martin playing along.
If boundaries are pushed and the result is neither funny nor thought-provoking, then it makes for a terrible movie-going experience. There was one part where a group of Southern hunters had hospitably agreed to take Bruno out on a camping trip. He repeatedly makes passes at them, and they do not react to his provocation. In the middle of the night, Bruno goes up to one of the hunters' tents, completely naked, and asks if he can come in because a "bear ate all his clothes." The hunter told him to fuck off. On one hand, the hunters come off better than almost everyone else in the movie, because they refuse to rise to the bait. But again, they didn't deserve to be screwed with in front of millions of people. I also wondered: What would the audience think if the hunters had been women? And they had been accosted by a naked man while vulnerable and asleep in their tents? I bet Baron Cohen would never have crossed that particular line.
Apparently I'm not the only one who is disgusted by Bruno . While the film dominated the box office overall, the number of people going to see it plummeted by Sunday . According to EW , "that considerable ... drop may also indicate poor word-of-mouth."
Photograph of Sacha Baron Cohen as Bruno by Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images.