Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Review
Say the full title–Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan–three times without screwing up and something good will happen.
Fourteen years has passed since Sacha Baron Cohen gave us a movie as his character Borat, the offensive and uninformed reporter from Kazakhstan. Since Borat was released the social fabric has changed so radically in the United States that bringing the character back now is a curious decision. It’s curious because going in there was one question that wouldn’t leave: can the comedy of Borat translate to today?
The simple answer is yes. Back when the character first appeared on the big screen he was a bit of a novelty. Cohen had been around for a while, most notably as Ali G, but what he was doing was fresh. It was also a different time. It’s insane to think about how much of a Wild West the internet was back then, even as recently as 2010. Political correctness was driven underground but there was more social coherence in general. It was not a perfect time but it presented distinct challenges.
So can a man who has comically backwards views on everything from women (keeping them in cages, not letting them drive) to race to society as a whole carve out a spot in today’s society? Do we even want him? Of course we do because it’s funny. The context in which he operates today adds a another degree of pleasantness to the experience.
Courtesy of Amazon Studios. As an introvert, I relate.
With that said, I’m not sure if the jokes land on the same level as they did back then. I’d have to revisit the original flick but it’s safe to say that it’s not quite as funny. That could either be due to time just naturally dulling the edge or Cohen perhaps not possessing quite the same finesse that he once had.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t some fantastic gags thrown in there. Even if the excellent beginning set a standard that the rest of the movie couldn’t quite live up to, it still flirted with moments of absolute hilarity. For example, he took a shot at my own Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that was clever and mocking in equal spades. His interactions with a certain religious doctor left me in tears. It is situations like that where the greatness shines through.
Borat still works admirably because of his ignorance. It’s not intentional, he was just raised in a culture that was legitimately a threat to freedom. His belief system was cultivated under a guise of morality that was really just oppression. So when that is contrasted with American society it’s so uncanny that the absurdity of it is enough to elicit chuckles even if the jokes are relatively repetitive.
Where Borat Subsequent Moviefilm deviates from what we could have predicted is in the relationship with his daughter–his non-male son. It’s a natural film progression so the way it unfolds is not unique to this film or any other film, but what is? We’ve often seen neglectful fathers but the extreme in which Borat operates towards his daughter makes the arc between them more emotional. It’s heartfelt but not cheesy. It helps that the daughter is charming and humorous in her own right.
Courtesy of Amazon Studios. Sometimes my caption just can’t live up to what the picture already shows.
I’ve seen this happen in sequels such as the jump from Clerks to Clerks 2 where it’s not as genuinely funny–perhaps because it’s not as raw–but it trades in some of that humour for emotional depth. Or maybe it’s just an attempt to not simply rehash nostalgia, even if there are call backs. In this case, the relationship between father and daughter helps balance out the moments where maybe the film doesn’t succeed at the more comedic aspects.
So with that, Borat has been launched into the Trump era, albeit at the potential tail end of it. He sticks the landing for the most part and doesn’t always rely on cheap jabs to garner laughs and sympathy. Even if Cohen didn’t maintain the same level of technique over the years, he’s still incredibly amusing and ludicrous when all the stars align. He could have just phoned this in and made some cash, but it’s obvious that he still cares about his art.
Let me just make this clear: this is one of the best comedies of the year, despite my criticism. I just felt that this could have been a little more; it could have been amazing instead of a merely great, which is not a bad problem to have.
THAT'S ENOUGH, GET TO THE SCORE
FEELS AS GOOD AS DISCOVERING YOURSELF IN A BATHROOM
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm has a great title and is a great movie. A few more choice jokes that land would have been nice but it makes up for not being quite as funny as the original by having a surprisingly effective subplot between daughter and father.