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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Borat: Subsequent Movie Film


2006's Borat took Sacha Baron Cohen's satiric character from his TV show, and dropped him in the middle of George W. Bush's America.  With his broken English and politically incorrect views on Jews, minorities and women, the Borat character seems designed to make us laugh and offend at the same time, as he openly exposes some of the more openly dumb elements of our culture, posing as patriotism.  The film followed Cohen as the titular character as he visited America, and performed a lot of hit and miss hidden camera gags where the comedic actor showed just how far some people were willing to go with their beliefs, the people not realizing that they were being trolled or even filmed the entire time.

It's 14 years later, and Cohen has now given us Borat: Subsequent Movie Film, which hopes that lightning will strike twice by reviving the character within Donald Trump's America (or McDonald Trump, as the character calls him), as well as a culture that has been dealing with a pandemic.  Again, there are laughs here, but a good deal of the film left me feeling more uncomfortable than amused.  Maybe that was the intention.  However, seeing our Vice President tell a crowded room early this year that the virus is under control and that there are only 15 cases in the U.S. just doesn't exactly inspire a sense of levity in the viewer.  Same goes for the now famous "interview" with Rudy Giuliani that everyone by now knows about that happens late in the film.  More than what eventually happens, what made me uncomfortable was listening to his theories on the virus.  

Maybe this movie will play funnier to me years from now when all of this is a memory, but being in the middle of it all and watching it being played out for rude laughs just made me feel uncertain on how to respond.  Like before, this is a largely hit and miss affair.  It does try to add more plot to the film, giving Borat a 15-year-old daughter named Tutar (played by the 24-year-old Maria Bakalova), and making a majority of the film hinging on whether Borat can be a good father to her.  Tutar herself also carries a large portion of the film, as her storyline deals with her learning that women can do things like drive cars and live their own lives when she visits America for the first time with her father.  It seems like an attempt to add some heart to the crude antics that are frequently on display, and while Bakalova does a great job (both in the scripted moments with Cohen, and the hidden camera moments with random strangers), the warped sentiment of her plot does not always click.

The plot initially finds Borat doing hard labor after bringing shame to his homeland of Kazakhstan after his previous movie came out.  He gets his chance for freedom when he is brought before the Premier of his nation.  The Premier wants Borat to go back to America, and deliver a gift to Vice President Mike Pence, namely a monkey who also happens to be Kazakhstan's Minister of Culture, as well as its leading porn star.  And so our intrepid reporter goes back to America to prepare for the monkey's arrival via a crate.  When he opens the crate, however, he learns that his daughter Tutar has stowed away, and ate the monkey during the journey.  She has longed to see America ever since she saw a Disney-style animated movie about Melania Trump, and how she met the current President.  Thinking quickly, Borat decides that he will present his own daughter as a gift to Pence, and the two go on a road trip to make Tutar more "presentable" to men of power, which include a beauty make over, crashing a debutante ball, and learning how to be submissive to older horny men.

Borat: Subsequent Movie Film tries to balance the father-daughter bonding plot, alongside the pit stops along the way where the characters do hidden camera pranks.  At one point, Tutar eats a tiny plastic baby that was on top of a cupcake, so Borat must take her to a clinic, and explain to the doctor that he, her father, put a baby in her.  There's also an extended sequence where Borat moves in with a couple of QAnon believers who teach him that Obama hates America, and that the Clintons are demonic pedophiles.  It leads to an overall tone that, like I said, does have some big laughs, but also a number of scenes that just made me feel uneasy.  I understand that is likely the point, and what Cohen is going for.  Still, some of this stuff just did not play as funny to me.  He is trying to hold up a satirical mirror to our current culture, but living in the middle of it all, sometimes I had to just kind of look away.


2006's Borat left me with a mixed reaction, and so did this film, so maybe that will be enough to let you know if this is for you.  Whatever your response to the original, this one will probably be the same.  I admire what Cohen is trying to do here, but not all of the jokes land, and sometimes he doesn't really seem to be trying for laughs, and just lets the camera linger on the worst parts of society.  Maybe it's just not easy for me to laugh at a lot of the things that are going on in the world right now.  You might feel differently.

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