(Universal Studios)

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If you liked Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, you might enjoy this year’s Brüno. It shares many techniques and much of the same unpleasantly exploitive attitudes (especially toward his devoted stooge/sidekick) with Baron Cohen’s first feature, moving the target from anti-Semitism to homophobia.

Brüno’s opening montage is a veritable tribute to fanciful anal sex, giving a new dimension to the phrase “perch and swivel.” Baron Cohen plays a pretty, callow Austrian fashionista, an utterly self-involved sociopath oblivious to the needs and feelings of others, who goes on the road, aiming simply to become famous, after his tiny boyfriend deserts him. (The star worked as a model early in his career, and seems perfectly at home in the fashion world; his insolent, passive side saps the energy of the film in its later segments.)

Brüno is a squirm-inducing picaresque, an episodic ramble around the world featuring a series of stunts that gull marks famous and unknown. The hero “adopts” an African baby, incurring the wrath of a largely black talk-show audience in Texas. He visits “gay converters” in Alabama, a dominatrix, a National Guard boot camp, a bunch of hunters. He appears to confuse Ron Paul with RuPaul. His stooges quickly become eye-rollingly bored with his shtik, and you might be too; some of the “reality” sequences were apparently staged, which undermines the film’s very premise. As a series of skits on a show like SNL, the material might work fine; as a 90-minute film it’s too much of the same nasty thing.

Oddly, most of my gay friends seem totally uninterested in this film, while the few straight women I asked loved it. Go know. But if you buy or rent the DVD, arrange for something else to do during the many violent trailers that precede the feature on the disc.

Elizabeth Zimmer

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