It’s completely safe to say that 2020 has been the most contentious year in American history since the turn of the century. The onset of the COVID-19 plague, along with the revitalization of racial tensions that have plagued the nation despite being shrouded in peace, has fostered outcry and frustration that hasn’t existed to such a tense degree in many people’s lifetimes. As we’ve seen in other periods of strife, this oddly sets perfect conditions for some prime (pun intended) content for cinema’s exploitation. What better way to highlight the banalities of modern America than by revitalizing one of the most controversial and introspective characters of all time: Borat Sagdiyev? Comedic genius Sacha Baron Cohen clearly knew this was the perfect opportunity to resurrect this legendary Kazakh reporter caricature. To both hilarious and horrifying effect, we’ve been given a disturbing look into the dark side of America via Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
The Borat sequel is premised upon Borat’s imprisonment after his return to Kazakhstan, having shamed the country for his ludicrous behavior in the US during the events of the first film. After nearly 14 years of slave labor, Borat is instructed to bring the Kazakh Minister of Culture, Johnny the Monkey, as a gift to “McDonald Trump” in attempt to re-unify the two nations. When the monkey is eaten by Borat’s stowaway daughter Tutar, Borat instead chooses to offer his child to a member of the Trump administration instead. Yes, this is about as insane of a premise as it gets, and in classic Baron Cohen style, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm retains the same comedic tonality as the first film. All the shocking comedic beats are hit, and nothing about this film is less offensive than it’s predecessor, a pretty strong accomplishment considering the modern social justice landscape. The strongest highlight of this film, however, is Borat’s daughter Tutar, played by newcomer Maria Bakalova. She is just as hilarious and perhaps even more key to this film’s central story than Baron Cohen himself, expertly playing along every unscripted stunt, even in the most shocking of situations (which I’ll discuss).
As funny as this movie can be in the scripted sense, I found Borat Subsequent Moviefilm to be off-balanced by the disgusting subcultures that it highlights, showing what’s illustrated as increasingly prominent via a lack of decry from the current Trump Administration. At a conservative rally, Borat (in another layer of disguise) convinces a large audience at a Conservative rally to sing of COVID as a liberal hoax, and support for the deaths of Jews and other Democrats. At a debutante ball, several old white men are exposed for extremely sexist inclinations towards women. In a quarantine sequence, two men suggest Liberals should have fewer constitutional rights than Conservatives. Perhaps most disturbing is the now-infamous Rudy Guiliani sequence, where Tutar is sent to him in disguise as a conservative reporter. If you see this movie, it will be undeniably clear what the President’s personal attorney’s inclination is, as he repeatedly touches Bakalova, and ends up in a bedroom putting his hand down his pants in a clear attempt as masturbation. There’s no solid evidence that this is ABSOLUTELY what happened…but to me and I think most who see this film, the intent is visibly present. It is the accumulation of these events that gave me a sick feeling while watching this film. I can’t say it makes for an enjoyable movie-watching experience, but to see how prominent these behaviors are while being hidden just under surface level is important to recognize.
My criticism of this movie is admittedly based on personal bias. Borat’s humor has never been my favorite, as I’ve never enjoyed the excessive anti-semitic jokes or provokingly gross sequences. As with nearly all of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work, this movie revolves around provoking its targeted bystanders, so there is clear bias involved in creating a negative slant against American Conservatism. While this is inherently unfair to a degree, I don’t think it’s baseless, especially considering the ease in which Baron Cohen and Bakalova can goad their targets into saying horrible things. Ultimately, it’s hard for me to say I found this movie fully entertaining, but in its goal of creating dialogue to discuss the self-destructive tendencies alive in America, I’d say Borat Subsequent Moviefilm achieves GRREAT SUCCESSS, and is generally EHH’VERREEE NAIIICE.