Sacha Baron Cohen sells out (sort of)

He did it. I can’t believe he did it. If you’d asked me a month ago if I thought it was possible, I’d have listed things more likely to happen: a) Pat Robertson agrees to a Barbara Walters interview in which he announces he now supports gay marriage and has legally changed his name to “Banana Hammock” to prove it; b) In 2009, Meryl Streep acts in a movie and does not get nominated for an Oscar; or c) South Carolina gets voted the smartest state in America.

I’m talking, of course, about Sacha Baron Cohen’s decision to retool and revise “Brüno,” a much-hyped, highly controversial film based on a character he created for “Da Ali G Show,” in order to squeeze an “R” rating out of the MPAA.

Mr. Cohen, if I may, a question: Is you on crack or somethin’?

Sigh. I suppose in Hollywood, selling out is the norm. But Cohen always operated a little left of center, which is why I — and everyone else who loved “Da Ali G Show” — am more than a little surprised and disappointed. I mean, this is the guy who didn’t flinch during an interview (insert air quotes to undermine the seriousness of that word) with Andy Rooney in which Rooney, angry at being duped, unloaded a sack of insults on Cohen. Cohen never broke character. In the outtakes of “Talladega Nights,” he never smiled, or even looked like he thought about smiling. The man doesn’t flinch. He’s that good.

Though I’m a tad miffed at his self-censorship, I can’t help but pine for July 10, when Cohen unleashes his outrageous Austrian fashionista upon the world at large. Judging by the crazy-sexy-weird promo shots, it’s bound to be the movie release heard ’round the world.

I just pray that it will show everyone the healing powers of house music. I mean, it did wonders for the end of apartheid.

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