2020 has been a miserable, horrible year and one section that has been struck with countless complications and delays in the movie industry. With so many big titles sidelined to streaming services or just getting outright pushed back further and further, there have been very few pieces of cinematic scraps for theatergoers to appreciate and attend. The world needed a pick me up and bad. Luckily for us and much to our surprise, Sacha Baron Cohen had secretly filmed and completed a sequel to his polarizing persona, Borat; entitled “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Very few knew this film had been made and its release on Amazon Prime took everyone by surprise. Despite his crass signature brand of humor, Cohen’s resurrection of his iconic 2006 role may be just the comedic shot in the arms everyone quarantined at home needed.
This time around, Borat returns to America with his daughter Tutar Sagdiyev (Maria Bakalova) in hopes of offering her as a “marriage gift/proposal” to Mike Pence in order to improve his image with his homeland country of Kazakhstan. What transpires is Borat’s return to the public eye and learning to adjust and foster his unique brand of comedy/public exploration skills in a world ravaged by a pandemic, a presidential house rife with controversy and all around; trying to bring a few smiles and laughs in a movie that no one asked for, but turns out, we all actually needed.
“Borat,” much like Cohen’s specific brand of humor, is an acquired taste, to say the least. His polarizing characters have generated controversy and comedy alike and this new film is no exception to either. While most of the gross-out nudity and sexual humor from the first film is still present, it’s been toned down quite a bit and successfully uses it without relying on shock value to deliver the brunt of the gags. Most of the “story” relies on hitting on-point political and social issues that have been dominating our society since Trump became president, and have since escalated in wake of the all-consuming pandemic crisis. Never have the jokes hit more perfectly nor have they felt so deliciously well-timed than in this gloriously immature sequel. To even speak or describe most of the film’s side-splitting jokes would ruin the punchline and dampen the enjoyable experience for anyone curious to give this film a much-needed look.
Even one of the most well-known characteristics of the character of Borat (mocking/fearing the Jewish community) is given a serious and more respectful lens by the film’s end, which is something I was not expecting in the slightest. The standout scene-stealer is actually not Cohen himself but his “daughter.” A newcomer to the scene who has remarkable comedic timing and creates an absurd and amusingly occasionally touching dynamic with Cohen in some of the most unusual daughter-father bonding moments. But really, it’s the wild reaction and ugliness in certain circles that Cohen exposes that really amplifies the humor and awareness in our society; even during times as stressful as these does this prove how effective humor can be.
My only slight criticism would be the slight feeling of having the father/daughter issue being forced for the sake of making a cohesive story seem sensible. The original Borat film made no effort to disguise the film as anything else than Cohen in a costume and weird accent obtaining wild reactions on tape. Even when the original film did try and craft a story, it was always and rightfully sidelined for the physical and adult humor you expect and hope to see. At times the story elements can feel so absurd (as intended) that their earnest take on it works to the film’s advantage, but sometimes, it drags on too long and lingers a bit more than it needs to be. You should always stick to your talents and not strive to be something else, especially when you’re making a mockumentary parody film from a character from over 15 years ago.
Overall, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is an early Christmas present that the world can and should enjoy if you happen to have the means of seeing it. All of the flaws and fumbles of the original film have been toned down or updated with far better, more on point relevant humor that perfectly encapsulates people’s collective thoughts regarding this year’s disastrous turnout. It hits practically every mark, reflecting so much back at us through an ingeniously crafted comedic lens and even manages to grow and expand beyond the limitations of its predecessor. The sappy family story didn’t need as much attention as it thought it did but it’s a minor gripe at best. Love Cohen, hate him, trash his movies; whatever you want, this one is no joke.
I give “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” 3 stars out of 4.
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