29th Oct2020

‘Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm’ Review – Second Opinion

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova, Dani Popescu, Manuel Vieru, Miroslav Tolj, Alin Popa | Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad | Directed by Jason Woliner

The original Borat was perfectly willing to blend scripted and unscripted material together to make an extremely funny, if difficult to watch film. It was slightly dishonest, but it made me laugh throughout. Borat often held repellent ideas about women, race, and any “hot button” topic one might care to mention. This was all designed to shock and amuse but at his core Borat was always a sweet little boy, who had the bad luck of being raised in a comically backward former Soviet Republic. It was this sweet naivety that held my attention, even if Borat was doing something awful. I felt no such twang of humanity from Baron Cohen’s other comic creation, Bruno who had no excuse for acting like such a jerk.

Borat, like Ali G before him, relies on his prey being unaware that the whole thing is a set up and, the problem Sacha Baron Cohen now faces is that everyone recognizes him. This is one of the things addressed early in the film. Borat has his daughter in tow. Maria Bakalova is particularly good as the daughter (“Tutar”) and joins in with Baron Cohen with aplomb and excited to be in a golden cage, like Melina Trump. In many ways, this is her story, more than that of Borat.

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm kicks off with Borat in hard labour. Since the first film, Kazakhstan has lost the respect of the global community and their chief exports (potassium and pubis) have dropped off a cliff. Even the celebrated “Running of the Jew” has been cancelled. To solve this, the only natural solution is Borat to travel back to the United States to bribe Mike Pence, anyway he can. I get the feeling at times, that people are being made to look dreadful, when in reality they are suddenly confronted with a surreal request and our societal norms of “not making a fuss” allow a very nice seeming lady to write “Jews will not replace us” on a cake.

I thought I wanted more of the whole Borat schtick, but it turns out I do not. Perhaps, I am just older. Or, perhaps all these years later we are now living in a world so dark and so ridiculous that watching an anti-abortion person arguing that a baby created between Borat and his daughter is God’s will (in reality, she had eaten a cake with a toy baby on the frosting, the joke doesn’t quite work but the sentiment of the subject no longer shocks me in 2020). The film also veers into thriller territory that worked so poorly in Scarborough. As a feature film, a “plot” is important, but it never quite marries up to the shock, ambush humour that can (but does not always) work so well.

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm may be a comedy film, and I may not have enjoyed the comedy aspect but there are positives to take from the film. The entire film is a vehicle for railing against social and justice issues of the USA in 2020 in the build up to a huge US election. If your politics are conservative, this film is largely attacking you. I think that there was an interesting thread regarding Borat and COVID, but it is clumsily handled and seems half-hearted. Like many of Sacha Baron Cohen’s more recent work, it feels that there were good ideas here, it just feels rushed and underdeveloped.

At a daddy daughter dance Borat asks one of the fellow dads “how much do you think my daughter is worth?” the old man replies “500 dollars” to be immediately and angrily reprimanded by his own daughter. So perhaps, there is unscripted light in this black comedy. In among the horrible things said there are wonderfully uplifting moments. As Tutar starts to find her own way in the world she meets some wonderful people, and it makes me a little sad that these people were put upon in this way.

There are, as there have always been, wonderful people out there. I just wish in 2020 we focused on them, rather than the frothing lunatics. Perhaps the world would not be such a dark place.

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is available to watch on Amazon Prime now.


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