Synopsis – Follow-up film to the 2006 comedy centering on the real-life adventures of a fictional Kazakh television journalist named Borat.
My Take – I think no debate can be made out of the sheer range of talent Sacha Baron Cohen possess, as the superb performer can switch it up in seconds while moving from mockumentaries to dramas, as seen in last week’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, were he comfortably stole the thunder from comparatively more actively working actors.
However, for me he will always be Borat, the fictitious Kazakh reporter who back in 2006, in his own titular film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, took everybody by surprise for successfully managing to trap interviewees into letting their guards down, resulting in a globally recognizable and instantly quotable hilarious comedy.
Hence it came as an excellent surprise, when it was announced last month that a sequel was shot in secret, and was already ready for release via Amazon Prime with a prodigious title, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery Of Prodigious Bribe To American Regime For Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan. Yes, considering how excellent the first film was, the follow up does not carry the novelty, which allowed some of its lines and moments to become iconic to the point of over saturation.
However, that said, the sequel is also manages to be one of the most uproariously funny American comedies I have seen in a long time. At a base level, is knockdown funny from the get-go, all the punches land and obviously Sacha Baron Cohen doesn’t pull his punches back. Though the stakes are higher this time around, the laughs are just as effective. Some scenes are uncomfortable yet hilarious.
If the first film was an irreverent peek into the weirdest parts of Bush’s America, then the sequel is an equally irreverent but much more focused peek into the dark corners of Trump’s America. The comedy is still there, and Baron Cohen along with co-star Maria Bakalova willingly go to truly wild lengths to land the laughs, but director Jason Woliner along with his team of eight writers, also add a deeper sense of perspective regarding how America has changed in the last 14 years.
The story once again follows Borat Margaret Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen), a Kazakh news reporter who 14 years ago achieved international fame and notoriety after the release of Borat, but then jailed after Kazakhstan infamously became the world’s laughing stock. His wife left him for their neighbor. His sons denounced him as their father. But now suddenly the Premier Nazarbayev (Dani Popescu) wants him for a mission.
As he has not received a visit from President McDonald Trump. He wants to be viewed as a strongman, like the great Vladimir Putin and heroic Kim Jong-un, and tasks Borat with restoring Kazakhstan’s standing in the eyes of America’s leadership by presenting their greatest asset, Johnny the Monkey, Kazakh’s Minister of Culture and top porn star, as a gift to Trump’s closest colleague, Michael Pence, vice premier of America.
But when he arrives stateside Borat is shocked to discover that Tutar (Maria Bakalova), his fifteen-year-old daughter, stowed away in the monkey’s crate for the trip and, well, gotten hungry on the way over. That makes him realize something: Maybe she would make a better gift? She is delighted by the idea, lit up by the notion that she might be the next “queen of America,” like Melania Trump. To tackle that challenge, though, she’s going to need a makeover. And in typical Borat fashion, with unsuspecting hairdressers and dress shop owners and other civilians not quite realizing they’re the object of fun, Tutar is transformed from a ratty-haired gremlin into a woman, while coming into her own.
As one can expect the following results are predictably bonkers. On its surface, it’s exactly what Borat conditioned Cohen fans to expect. It uses an American road trip as a pretext for ludicrous real-world interviews and improvised scenarios, where Cohen’s racist, sexist, anti-Semitic caricature pushes people’s buttons, and even sneaks into a Republican convention dressed as the President, defecates in front of Trump Tower, and buys a chocolate cake with Jews will not replace us written on it in icing.
The film also acknowledges early on that Borat is no longer an anonymous foreign reporter, and is instead an internationally beloved pop culture character, meaning that a lot of people are going to instantly recognize him.
Which results in a hilarious scene of Borat running down the street while passers-by shout “MY WIFE!” at him, and him even finding an unofficial Borat Halloween outfit in a costume shop. Hence forcing the naive TV reporter to disguise himself as a foreign dignitary, cheap businessman or trailer-trash hick.
In the past, we’ve seen Cohen target them all: prominent church leaders, politicians, international figures. This time, Cohen ups the ante and goes after Pence and Trump lawyer (and former New York City mayor) Rudy Giuliani in what is one of the most uncomfortable scenes in modern film history. Widely detailed in dozens of publications, that descriptor is no exaggeration. Other unfortunate souls who fall under Cohen and director Jason Woliner’s satirical assault include a collection of Georgian debutantes, a doctor, more than one Republican gathering, what appears to be a pro-Trump rally and several other individuals from the U.S. South. All of which easily falls into majorly awkward territory.
For some people, yes, this film will be far too much. Aside from the brutal discomfort, let us not forget this is a Borat film, so there are dick jokes aplenty, not to mention pubic hair jokes as well as an unexpectedly graphic period scene.
But at the end of the day, the funniest stuff is still just Baron Cohen spouting nonsense to unsuspecting members of the public. The controversies and shock value often overshadow what a great physical comedian he is, and Borat tumbling over some bemused-but-well-meaning Texan, eating lipstick or failing to understand how a video call works often deliver the biggest laughs.
To her credit, Maria Bakalova never once wavers. While we’re used to seeing Cohen being outrageous, it’s quite something to see a newcomer do the shtick just as well, and in some scenes almost outshine Cohen. Above all, they’re a solid pair, and together they carry the film to insane heights. On the whole, ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm‘ is a bold and outrageous return trip once again well delivered by a hilarious and unapologetic Sacha Baron Cohen.
Directed – Jason Woliner
Rated – R
Run Time – 95 minutes