REVIEW: ‘It’s Bruno’ Showcases a Dog Dad You Can See Yourself In

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It's Bruno

Pawrents love their pets…a lot. In Netflix/Stage 13 new scripted series It’s Bruno, written, directed, and staring Solvan “Slick” Naim, the bond between pet parent and dog is on full display in a hyperbolic way. The show is wrapped around real situations pet parents go through, and some we will never, like getting into a salsa dance battle with an elementary schooler.

The eight-episode season follows dog lover, Malcolm (Naim,) his best friend, and constant canine companion Bruno as they live their lives and embark on Broad City-like adventures in Brooklyn, New York. Truthfully, they go through some pretty hilarious adventures on their vibrant and diverse Brooklyn block. Throughout It’s Bruno, we see the two interact with other dog owners throughout the neighborhood in both friendly and antagonistic ways.

For all intents and purposes Malcolm is that parent who has to have the best kid in the bunch – or rather needs people to see them that way. In the first episode, while on the way to get the gourmet turkey meat that makes up Bruno’s morning meal, the two come across Harvey (Rob Morgan) and Angie. While both dogs sit on command, Angie responds to “down” and Bruno doesn’t, setting up a rivalry that continues in hilarious ways for the rest of the short season.

When it comes down to it, Malcolm is the neurotic dog dad in all of us even if he isn’t even a good person. He brushes Bruno’s pearly whites, kicks a shopping cart to protect him, has breakfast with him at the table, gets him a modeling contract, and ends up footing a $1,200 vet bill because he needs his shots. Even though the way these situations unfold are hyperbolic, it reflects the life I have with my pup. All of these pieces of pet parent life is wrapped in absurd situations.

From a pet owner’s perspective, it does well to turn small things we experience into grand adventures or nefarious plots. The best of which is when Bruno comes to the realization that Lulu (Shakira Barrera), his new love interest, has fallen in love with his dog Bruno more than him. I can say before I had Leia, I definitely went on a few dates to hang out with someone’s dog. With that, I’ve also been in Malcolm’s shoes. When you love your dog, you need to make sure that the new person you introduce to your life gets along with your dog and cares about them like you do. So, when Lulu is in love with them both, it seems perfect.

Then the parody comes smashing in: Lulu isn’t really there for Malcolm, she’s here for Bruno. She doesn’t simply just want to be around the star puggle, she wants to steal him. It starts off small, grabbing Bruno’s leash, brushing his teeth, taking over more of the tasks Malcolm does for his puggle baby. Then, it gets weird. During sex, Lulu yells for Bruno and since that didn’t turn Malcolm off entirely, he leaves to go pick up some turkey for Bruno. When he returns ahead of schedule, it turns out that Lulu is a crazed dog thief. And that’s only the start of that adventure.

Since every episode focuses on a different event, it’s a little too easy to forget some of the events, but as the story unfolds you realize that action in episode one matters in episode six as some of the background characters become important later on. As a background character named Rosa (Jade Eshete) becomes the best person in Malcolm’s life, that is until Lulu ruins it. As an example of one of the more real moments of It’s Bruno, Malcolm finds out that Bruno needs his rabies shot. In order to fight the ticket, he received for having an unvaccinated dog in a state park – which is really just one protected tree on a Brooklyn sidewalk – he sets up an appointment and heads to the vet’s office. There, it turns from one shot to an x-ray, and many more vaccines ultimately stacking up to a $1,200 vet bill. Now, he could walk away from the vet with just the rabies shot, but like any pet parent who is told the names of diseases that their per could without more shots, he opts for the payment plan instead. There is no way he’s not leaving with Bruno being healthy.

It's Bruno

An Algerian-American himself, Naim has packed this Brooklyn story with almost entirely Black and brown actors. In fact, the only white actors that noticeable appearances in the show are the pet shop co-owners Mario (Joe Perrino) and the guy who lets his dog poop on the sidewalk without picking it up in episode two, “Sh*t and Run,” who is said to be one another gentrifier of Brooklyn. That being said, the show does ground some of its characters’ comedy entirely in stereotypes, like Crackhead Carl (Donnell Rawlings) or the Latinx stoners and their dog Macho. In addition, the only Latinas in the show are either crazy, Lulu, or hot-tempered like Leslie (Kathiamarice Lopez), the bodega owner. Ultimately the existence of Carl is offset by the fact that the diversity of the cast allows for other Black characters in roles that aren’t grounded in ugly stereotypes rooted in the Reagan era.

While the majority of every character, stereotype or not, is fairly surface only, there are more Black characters that offset the problematic representation. But for Latinx characters, Lulu and her husband, Barry Bailando, along with their child,  drug  Malcolm and steal his dog. In addition to that, they’ve also trained their salsa dancing son to dance the moment he hears a Latin beat. This all happens while the only other Latina is painted as an antagonist because she hates that Malcolm doesn’t care about how he treats her or her bodega. It’s problematic, but ultimately the show moves past it in most areas.

Well, until Lulu decides to call ICE on a new woman in Malcolm’s life at the end of the season. Which, I honestly don’t have the energy to unpack the way this goes beyond funny since it is a Latina calling ICE on another woman of color and something that I couldn’t forget about while watching the show. With all of that being said, I appreciate the fact that all the dog owners are people of color, and that the most knowledgeable guy at the pet store and co-owner Nelson (Devale Ellis) happens to be Black. It may seem insignificant but the stereotype that only white people can love their dogs in a sentimental way is ridiculous and It’s Bruno throws that out the window.

It's Bruno

Every character loves their dogs unconditionally. This is especially present in Malcolm’s nemesis Harvey and his dog Angie. They’re essentially a version of Malcolm and Bruno, if Malcolm wasn’t an abrasive guy and if Bruno could land a puppy food contract. Normalizing the affection that we have for animals is important, and something that often doesn’t happen until we bring a dog or cat into our homes. For me, I grew up hearing, “dogs belong outside” and “inside dogs are for white people.” Now, my dog is my companion, essentially my child. I buy her the best dog food, let her sleep in our bed, buy her the best shampoo, buys her allergy medicine, and takes her to the vet regularly – also something my mom said that Mexicans don’t do.

Media reiterates this, often keeping pets reserved for affluent white families. When was the last time you saw a person of color with a pet in this way? Granted, this is often a joke when it arises, but it’s important to me. As a dog mom that has a subscription to Bark Box, this show reflects me and my friends who have opted for dogs instead of children and are pushing back against our parent’s hate of dogs – like Malcolm mentions when he is explaining how he adopted Bruno. From a technical standpoint, the pacing is jumping and I’m not sure that it has a clear concept of time, which is okay given the format, which seems to be made for a webseries. The music throughout the season is great, with songs perfectly matched to scenes, and finally, the acting is solid. with every character working with natural humor.

Season one of It’s Bruno is extremely bingeable. Each episode is 15-minutes and under, with the final episode coming in at 20-minutes. While the show feels really close to Broad City season one because of its pace and comedy style adventures, it has a charm all of its own. If you have a dog, this is a definite watch, even with its faults.

It’s Bruno is now streaming on Netflix.

It's Bruno
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Season one of It’s Bruno is extremely bingeable. Each episode is 15-minutes and under, with the final episode coming in at 20-minutes. While the show feels really close to Broad City season one because of its pace and comedy style adventures, it has a charm all of its own. If you have a dog, this is a definite watch, even with its faults.

1 Comment on “REVIEW: ‘It’s Bruno’ Showcases a Dog Dad You Can See Yourself In”

  1. I am also a Latina who was raised being told dogs belong outdoors, and now I have two dogs that sleep with me, including a female puggle that looks like Bruno. Love this show and hope it continues!

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