Like journalism, comedy is generally most appealing when it afflicts the comfortable. This is especially true of the particular brand of humor pioneered by Sacha Baron Cohen, which functions as a kind of Bizarro cousin to journalism, an uninvited excavation of real people's buried bigotries and secret shames.
Baron Cohen's latest foray into the cinema of deception and discomfort, Bruno, is, like his prior effort Borat, envelope-shredding and, for the most part, hilarious. But like Borat, it is also on occasion an unsavory enterprise, one that takes scattered shots at elites before settling down to the business of mowing down the masses, on the evident premise that an awful lot of people (perhaps most people) hold views so reprehensible that they deserve to be exposed through trickery, and then ridiculed.
As Borat, Baron Cohen accomplished this feat by feigning an Old World primitivism on subjects such as women and Jews, and daring his marks to concur or, at least, to let his comments stand uncontested. As Bruno, he takes the opposite tack. Rather than directly encourage expressions of prejudice, he instead offers an irresistible target: a flamboyantly gay, 19-year-old Austrian fashion maven, who is also a committed exhibitionist, a passive-aggressive sexual predator, and a pathological fame junkie. It's not hard to imagine what will happen when he is released into the heartlands of America.