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Though Brüno, guerrilla comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to his phenomenally successful 2006 debut, Borat, topped the July 10-12 box office, it is also making news for one of the steepest sales drop-offs within a single weekend. While most Friday releases see an uptick in earnings on Saturday, the "mockumentary" about a gay Austrian television host's adventures in the United States and Middle East lost 39 percent of its audience. As someone who saw the film-or at least saw part of it-this comes as little surprise.
During my seven years as a film critic, I have never walked out on a movie I was assigned to review. After about 40 minutes, I walked out on this one. Within just that time, Baron Cohen simulates the most perverse kinds of homosexual activity. This, combined with long segments of full frontal nudity and grotesque sexual references, make the movie's R rating utterly inadequate.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Brüno is how many critics liked it. In its averaging of film reviewers across the country, the website Rotten Tomatoes found that 69 percent gave Brüno a thumbs-up, with many saying it exposes homophobia. True, Baron Cohen continues to practice "gotcha" comedy, conducting interviews in the guise of Brüno with celebrities, political figures, and others who have no idea they're being duped. But unless a man reacting with anger when another man takes off his pants and makes gross sexual overtures toward him (as Congressman Ron Paul reacts to Baron Cohen) is somehow the height of bigotry, there's little here to embarrass flyover country.
If there's bigotry in Brüno, it's bigotry toward middle America in the way Baron Cohen tromps through states like Alabama literally shoving his sexuality into unsuspecting people's faces. The fact that so many in the media take glee in Baron Cohen's antics reveals not only how far their worldview is from much of the country, but also that their pleasure in seeing those who disagree with their views abused is reaching alarming proportions.