Funny, gross, gotcha, and even…touching in its own way. Borat is Back!
How can one review a Borat sequel without giving anything away? Well, I will try. And if you’re wise, you’d avoid social media until the stroke of midnight on Friday, October 30th when “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is released on Amazon Prime because the internet, during a pandemic, has no respect for spoilers. I will do my best to limit them outside of what is in the trailer.
Now after “Borat” came out at the end of 2006 and “Verrrry Niiiice” was the catchphrase of the minute, you’d think that no one on planet Earth would assume a sequel as possible (it’s addressed early in the film). But Phil Hendry had a nice 16-year run with his radio show relying on the inattentiveness of a certain portion of the population regarding pop culture. Why should I think that Sasha Baron Cohen couldn’t pull it off too after 14 years?
The opening of the film finds Borat Sagdiyev in the gulag, sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor for embarrassing his home country, Kuzcek, Kazakh SSR in the previous film. Borat’s voiceover narration explains his plight and the fallout from his first journalistic enterprise in the “U.S. & A.” Suddenly, his luck has changed as he is pulled of rock-breaking duty, called into the Minster’s office, and given a new assignment.
America has a leader in Trump that’s more sympathetic to dictators and less than sympathetic to certain religions, races, and political movements, so it would seem to be a good time for Borat’s country to offer up a peace offering in the shape of Borat’s daughter, Tutar (played by Maria Bakalova who is amazing in this), to one of Trump’s powerful cohorts and find an ally in the United States of America.
We first had an inkling that Sasha Baron Cohen was up to something earlier this summer when footage leaked of Borat crashing a gun-rights rally to host a sing-a-long. Then the trailer was released where you see Borat crash a political rally where Mike Pence is speaking. He’s dressed as Donald Trump with a body over his shoulder. Then there’s the stint at the Woman’s Health Center where he needs to get a baby out of his daughter that he put there. And yes, it seems most of these “real scenes” take place in the South. I guess not as many people saw the 2006 film in that part of the country.
That’s as far as I’ll go with the storyline because, as in 2006’s “Borat”, the plot is really there to connect various, extremely-funny, telling, and often gone-too-far setups that will be most effective while watching with your grandparents, church groups, or unwilling, conservative family members. Or, ya know, just some socially-distanced friends.
Now while you could call Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat a Grouch Marx-type character (certainly not a comparison that’s not an original observation of my own) who has been sent through a taffy pull, it’s interesting to look at their political leanings. Marx said of himself in his 1977 book, “The Groucho Phile”, “I’ve been a liberal Democrat all my life…I frankly find Democrats a better, more sympathetic crowd…I’ll continue to believe that Democrats have greater regard for the common man than Republicans do.” Then again Marx also stated that wasn’t a big fan of women’s lib and said on a 1960’s show, Firing Line, that “The whole political left is the Garden of Eden of incompetence.” Well, people and comedy can be complicated?
Sasha Baron Cohen certainly would land more on the side of liberal, but appears to appreciate incompetence no matter who is offering it up – using our laughter to shine a light on hypocrisy. This year he’s picked a fight with Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg over their spreading of conspiracy and misinformation and through his comedy you certainly can recognize his disdain for assholes in power. Borat and Sasha’s characters show us that certain stereotypes and people of power can be stupid, full of shit, but yet enlightening.
Cohen’s movies and TV shows often find him playing the outcast or what some nerds like me would call the “other.” His characters force the mainstream to face them. However, most often the mainstream is just an “other” of a different sort of “other” found small groups with certain cultural stereotypes: elites, supposedly disenfranchised or poor people, seemingly uneducated people, and some other’s who are downright jerks. The rest of us, get to watch.
Sasha’s use of his characters reveals how people can be misled by their political and cultural leaders, which makes the takedown of his larger targets more that much more satisfying because rather than feeling bad and belittling for those caught up in, well, whatever they’re caught up in, I often end up feeling empathy for them and hostility for our leaders. I realize that such an outlook may really hinge on what political philosophy you identify with. Who hasn’t been occasionally suckered by a politician from either side of the political divide? You could call Cohen’s antics exploitation. Then again, do you really trust anyone that’s in charge? Maybe you’ll just ignore all my blathering and just enjoy how funny the chaos Cohen creates is.
Yes, there are gross-out moments at the expense of those with their noses upturned. There is nudity. People have their patience tried. But not everyone Borat comes in contact with during “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is there just for a laugh. There are some characters that don’t fall for the setup and actually seem to be rather likable and caring individuals if not in the very least tolerant people willing to give Borat and his cohort the time of day. It’s these people that are featured in the film that give it a nice balance to that are willing to do or say anything for a dollar…or sex.
The movie is very topical for 2020 and ties everything going on in the last 8 or 9 months or so up in a pretty tidy fashion.
I liked the film for a different reason than I liked 2006’s Borat, but I was 14 years younger than. I just wanted to laugh. I like this film because there just has to be some sort of baseline reality that we can agree on or nothing is going to change. What better than highlighting our ignorance to sort out what matters. Hopefully, Sasha Baron Cohen has many more characters to keep reminding us how silly we can be.
Also, if you missed Showtime’s “Who Is America?”, go watch right after this. I am always surprised by how many of my friends haven’t seen it.