Picks and Pans Review: Funny, But Borat Was Better

updated 07/20/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/20/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten | R | STARS "3"]

Lots of comedians claim they'll do anything for a laugh, but none can match Sacha Baron Cohen's fearlessness. Just as he did in 2006's uproarious Borat, Cohen enters a comedy danger zone—flirting with getting beaten, arrested or much worse—by injecting himself, in character, into combustible real-life situations. This time he's dim-bulb fashion plate Brüno, desperate to become "the biggest Austrian sensation since Hitler" by any means necessary. He tries to seduce then-presidential candidate Ron Paul, ridicules Osama bin Laden in front of a terrorist and flaunts his homosexuality in front of an enraged and intoxicated pro-wrestling audience.

As he proved with Borat, Cohen is a master at turning uncomfortable interactions into comedy gold. I particularly enjoyed/recoiled at Brüno's interviews with parents so eager to get their toddlers booked for a photo shoot that they'll agree to anything, including baby lipo. But compared with the everyman Borat, Brüno (who brings to mind an unhinged version of TV fashionista Steven Cojocaru) comes dangerously close to a Saturday Night Live caricature. And when several A-list musicians drop in, gamely in on the joke, Brüno loses much of its mischievous merriment.

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