by Nick L’Barrow
In 2006, Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) was sent from his home country of Kazakhstan (as their 4th best reporter) to the United States of America in order to bring back ideas and tips to make Kazakhstan just as great of a country as America. Flash forward 14 years later, after bringing much shame to his country, Borat is pulled from a Kazakh gulag and sent by his government to travel back to America in order to bring US “Premier” Donald Trump a gift of Kazakhstan’s famous porn star Johnny the Monkey (who is in fact, a monkey) in the hope to create a strong political relationship between the two countries.
Much like his first venture across the US of A, Borat visits a wide variety of American folk – ranging from the everyday conservative Southerner all the way up to Donald Trump’s legal counsel – filming all his exploits along the way. And very much so like his first venture, the film exposes a side of political and societal extremism that shocks, makes you cringe, and most importantly… causes unlimited amounts of laughter.
It’s a tough gig following up one of the funniest and most successful comedies of all time, especially in a time where comedic sequels usually fall incredibly short of their predecessors. What Borat 2 does incredibly well though, is adapt the format, humour and character for 2020, rather than just be a carbon copy of the first film. The addition of his daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova), is one of the reasons Borat 2 feels fresh, as it not only adds great new laughs and arguably on of the most controversial moments in the film with Rudy Giuliani (it literally has to be seen to be believed), but it adds an unexpected element of heart and sentimentality to Borat as a character and Borat as a movie. It’s not a story arc that’ll make you reach for the Kleenex, but it’s a great layer to the film. A full film of Borat being Borat may have been exhausting a second time around, but it’s saved immensely with this new dynamic, and Bakalova as Tutar is a standout while holding her own comedic ground alongside Baron Cohen.
With the original Borat being as shock-value filled as it was, it’s hard this time around to be completely gobsmacked by things that Borat does to provoke the reactions of the unassuming public around him. And the movie understands this, so how does it fix the problem? It focuses on even crazier unassuming targets this time around, and it pays off. It was reported that Baron Cohen had to wear a bulletproof vest during 2 scenes in the movie, and you can probably assume that the scene where Baron Cohen is dressed as Borat who is dressed as an overweight redneck named Country Steve at a Trump rally with people in the audience openly holding assault rifles while doing ‘Heil-Hitler-Nazi’ salutes is one of those scenes. That scenario is more shocking that Borat singing a song about Obama being put in jail and China manufacturing COVID -19. Borat 2 succeeds in letting the audience just observe this madness and make their own judgements (which most of the time is – “this doesn’t seem right”).
Borat 2 won’t go without its controversies too as Baron Cohen and his team of writers do not leave anything sacred or make anyone safe from being a target. It’s just as sexual and crude as the first movie, and if that humour isn’t up your alley, then this probably isn’t the movie for you. Borat is a character who is ignorant, but that is through not understanding societal norms in Western culture. And it should really go without saying, but that’s why it’s funny. It’s seeing the same ignorance in the people he talks too that should be seen as controversial and shocking. Borat is just a messenger bringing those ideologies to the screen.
Especially being close to the 2020 US election, a large focus of the story is on the current political state of America, the argument will be made by many who disagree with Baron Cohen’s political views that this is just a hit piece on Republican America. And while elements and scenes of the movie are obviously edited and staged to project that message, there is no denying that it’s been done incredibly (and hilariously) well.
While still uproariously funny, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm doesn’t hit as hard comedically as the original, but the format of the mock-umentary has been updated very well for 2020 and still portrays the absurdity of society in a light that will still shock as much as it will make you laugh.
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