It has been 14 years since Sacha Baron Cohen shook the film industry with the introduction to his now famous character, Borat Sagdiyev, a reporter from the nation of Kazakhstan. The character’s first appearance in “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” shifted the way that movie-goers experienced comedies.
The film was centered around Baron Cohen’s character, Borat, who was tasked with going to America to learn more about its culture for his own country, Kazakhstan. Borat is constantly put at odds with the American people he interacts with, who aren’t actors and don’t know that Borat is fictional, due to their cultural differences, which leads to some of the most hilarious scenes in modern comedy.
The original garnered critical acclaim and was nominated for several awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay at the 79th Academy Awards, which is an unheard feat for a comedy/mockumentary. The film also gained massive popularity for the controversy it created, not only in its depiction of Kazakhstan and its anti-semitic, racist title character, but also becuase it held a mirror to certain parts of America, revealing our own shortcomings. Seeing how people act and behave when the right buttons are pushed is a fascinating experiment, especially under the veil of a relentlessly hilarious comedy.
With Baron Cohen returning to the big screen in his most famous role after 14 years, I was curious to see if Borat’s antics would hold up in today’s climate. I also wasn’t sure how the film would tackle today’s issues in a sound and effective manner. Simply put, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” was a pleasantly hilarious surprise that I didn’t think I needed this badly.
It is very challenging to talk about a Borat movie because of its unscripted nature. To really explain how this movie works so well would be to spoil it in its entirety and ruin all of the best moments. I will say that the saving grace of the second “Borat” was how relevant and real it felt. It approaches the dumpster fire of the year 2020 with grace and precision. The film encapsulates just about every disaster that has been thrown our way with the first half of the film, exploring our messy political situation and equal rights, while the second half takes a sharp turn when the COVID-19 pandemic first hits the United States. It is woven in absurdly, but works so well.
Borat also has a new companion this time around. Maria Bakalova, who plays Borat’s daughter Tutor, is along for the ride and is nothing short of exceptional. She plays excellently as a fish out of water in America next to Borat, who is just as equally still out of his element because times have changed since 2006. The pair are magnetic and make even the most awkward moments in the film more uncomfortable to bear.
However, it should go without saying that “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is not for everyone. This time around, it is much more politically driven, where Borat targets big names like Mike Pence and Rudy Giuliani with his antics. For some, this kind of stuff might not be considered comedy, which is how I felt at certain times during the movie. The film also can be seen as more of the same but with a very different social climate, with which I can also see some taking issue.
For me, I thought the sequel to “Borat” was handled very well with a lot of thought and care on display. Baron Cohen definitely had a vision and a purpose to make this film as opposed to making a quick $100 million, which is probably why he elected to have the film debut on Amazon Prime Video before the election, rather than waiting for theaters to reopen. The film takes a bit of time to get going, but at its core, it is a less funny but more heartfelt version of the original. Definitely check it out if you liked the first Borat or if you’re just curious about whose career Sacha Baron Cohen will ruin this time.