For a guy who could write his ticket after last year’s critical and commercial triumph, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Sasha Baron Cohen sure took his sweet time writing it. And if you were hoping the delay in between projects meant Cohen was having second thoughts about Bruno, a big screen vehicle based around his gay fashion reporter (set up at Universal), well, so much for that. Bruno, which has yet to acquire a protracted subtitle for enhanced comedic effect, will be Cohen’s next film. And once Cohen completes that, it’s on to Jay Roach’s Dinner for Schumcks, a remake of the French comedy Le Diner de cons directed by Francis Veber.
While I like the title, I abhor the notion of Cohen wasting his considerable comedic talents on a Veber redo. For those of you lacking instant Veber recall, here’s why this is a dreadful idea:
The Man with One Red Shoe
My Father the Hero
All of these are either remakes of Veber’s French hits or originals. None of them are what you might call "good". In fact, some, like The Toy and Father’s Day, are what you might call "bad enough to resurrect and reinstall Hitler". There are some who’ll throw down for Buddy Buddy on the basis of Wilder, Lemmon and Matthau; I imagine these people are also huge fans of Another You.
Of course, I’m leaving out the one Veber-to-English success that doesn’t help make my case: Mike Nichols’s and Elaine May’s The Birdcage, an energetic update of Veber’s best film, La Cage aux folles (though The Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe and its sequel amused me as a kid). But that’s a whole lot of genius to arrive at a just-short-of-great comedy. Jay Roach may be a multi-millionaire, but he is not, and never will be (short of a "Flowers for Algernon" intervention), a genius of Nichols & May’s caliber.
Suddenly, I’m much more upbeat about Bruno, even though I still haven’t the slightest as to how they’ll infiltrate the fashion world now that the entire industry is surely on the alert. I’m sure it’s something Cohen’s considered; perhaps it’ll be more scripted than Borat. Or maybe he’ll just troll beaches during Spring Break looking for dupes like that wrestling team he coerced into committing near-homoerotic acts on Da Ali G Show. If you’ve never seen it, enjoy…