Dressing to distress in figure-hugging hot pants and crop-tops as the eponymous fashionista from Klagenfurt, Austria, Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s eagerly-awaited follow-up to the smash hit Borat doesn’t stray too far from the successful template of its predecessor.
But whereas the central protagonist of Borat was a loveable innocent abroad, Bruno is a crass, insolent media whore who needs taking down a peg or five.
Disappointingly, only once in the film does he get his comeuppance, when he visits a swingers’ party and a pneumatic blonde whips him with a belt.
As leather cracks against his pasty flesh, and a glint of genuine terror flashes in Cohen’s eyes, we whoop with joy.
Some audiences will undoubtedly take offence at Larry Charles’s film. Bruno is a flamboyant, gay stereotype writ loud and crude, and we frequently feel grubby watching the character’s antics such as when he visits a medium to contact the ghost of Milli from disgraced 1980s pop group Milli Vanilli or an X-rated montage of bedroom scenes with pygmy flight attendant boyfriend Diesel (Clifford Banagale).
An abortive seduction of 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul leaves a nasty taste in the mouth because we feel desperately sorry for the congressman.
Occasionally Cohen hits his mark.
Bruno’s guest spot on Today With Richard Bay, a confessional in the style of Jeremy Kyle, warrants a few chuckles as does a ham-fisted attempt to bring peace to the Middle East.
“You are confusing Hamas and hummus I believe,” observes one beleaguered participant.
The crowning glory is the audition for a children’s fashion shoot.
“Is your baby fine with lit phosphorous?” he deadpan asks one parent before confirming with another that her daughter could be prepared to undergo liposuction.
The mom is delighted when Bruno announces that little Olivia has got the part as a Nazi soldier, pushing a Jewish baby in a wheelbarrow into an oven.
A coda, set eight months later, finds Bruno a reformed man: shaggy-haired, bearded and now living under the moniker of Straight Dave, host of the Man Slammin’ Max Out cage fights.
Dave whips the crowd into a frenzy by beating up a gay man – Bruno’s nerdy assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten) – then stuns everyone by kissing and fondling his opponent in the ring.
In present-day America, it’s perfectly acceptable for two men to pummel each other to a bloodied pulp, but abhorrent for them to kiss.
STAR RATING: **