'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm' Review: Audaciously and Raucously Hilarious with a Surprisingly Tender Heart
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan found fictional reporter Borat Sagdiyev learning about American culture and society, but he nearly upended it all by trying to literally bag himself the golden-haired Pamela Anderson to be his wife. But Borat’s film didn’t help make Kazakhstan great. In fact, it brought great shame upon them, and Borat was fired from his job, banished from his village, and sentenced to a life of hard labor in a gulag.
But America is all about second chances. And Borat is given one now that America is “great again” under the rule of Premier McDonald Trump. The leaders of Kazakhstan have given Borat a chance to redeem himself by bringing Vice Premier Michael Pence a special gift, and it’s all chronicled in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Just like Borat’s first trip to America, nothing goes as planned, and the reporter ends up on another wild, unbelievable adventure chock full of morally questionable Americans.
This audaciously and raucously hilarious follow-up is infinitely more shocking and damning than the first film. However, it’s also surprisingly tender thanks to the presence of a new character: Borat’s daughter Tutar.
Kazakhstan’s most famous reporter Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) came to America 15 years ago in order to make a documentary that would educate his home country on how to become a great nation. America has changed since then, mostly for the worse, especially in 2020. That rings even more true for Borat, because thanks to the success of his movie in America, he can’t go out on the streets without being recognized. So in order to achieve his mission of bringing a gift to Mike Pence, he picks up a number of disguises allowing him to appear as inconspicuous everyday Americans with names like Cliff Safari and John Chevrolet. Somehow, there are still a few people who don’t recognize Borat when he’s not in disguise, and I just want to know what kind of life they live to have avoided some a pop culture phenomenon.
You might remember that the initial title for the Borat sequel was said to be Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan. That didn’t end up being the official title, but Borat’s mission does involve Kazakhstan’s most famous reporter delivering the country’s most famous porn star, a monkey named Johnny, to Mike Pence. However, the mission keeps changing as problems keep popping up, and the title of the movie keeps changing too, making for a solid running gag throughout the movie.
The biggest snag in Borat’s mission is that his 15-year old daughter Tutar (played by Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, not Irina Novak as originally thought) has secretly stowed away in the crate that was meant to ship Johnny the monkey to America. But his problem ends up being his solution when he realizes he can give away his daughter to Mike Pence as a gift, which will also allow Tutar to fulfill her dream of living in a golden cage under the watch of rich, powerful man, just like Princess Melania in her favorite animated fairytale.
On the surface, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm treads much of the same territory that the original film did. But instead of Borat learning about America, it’s his naive daughter who must get a complete makeover and discover how to behave like the kind of woman that a ladies man like Mike Pence will be attracted to. During this journey, Borat and Tutar end up on a series of misadventures where their customs and behavior are shamelessly displayed in front of real people. Just like the original movie, you’ll be flabbergasted with your mouth wide open as people let the most inappropriate and offensive remarks and behavior unfold in front of them. You’ll be even more shocked when certain people indulge in and agree with their exaggeratedly twisted views. Actually, after everything that’s happened over the past four years, maybe you won’t. But either way, it’s simultaneously outrageous and funny as hell.
Despite hitting many of the same narrative beats as the first movie (Borat even meets another kindhearted Black woman who helps him gain some new perspective, though this time it appears to be a real woman instead of an actress), the dynamic between Borat and his daughter gives it a new shine. Borat’s views of a woman’s place in the world are challenged as he begins to see what women are really allowed to do in America, going against everything he’s been told in the manual provided to every father by Kazakhstan’s Department of Agriculture and Wildlife. Meanwhile, Tutar realizes that her father isn’t perfect, and she doesn’t need to be what anyone else expects her to be. It’s this evolution of Tutar and her relationship with Borat that gives the sequel a charming, though still severely deranged, emotional core.
Instead of shining a light on the secret racism and prejudice that was hiding in plain sight in George W. Bush’s America from the original movie, this sequel reveals what happens when that hate is bolstered by government officials whose power is not being held in check, especially by those who claim to uphold moral ideals. Tutar believes what she’s been told by her father, who blindly believes in the leaders of Kazakhstan. This is where his hate for the Jewish people and condescension to women comes from. At the same time, a sect of Americans are blindly believing whatever they’re told by Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and the rest of their cronies, not just their discriminatory views of minorities, but even the idea that they had the coronavirus pandemic under control. The latter is something that plays a surprisingly large part in the overall narrative.
The mocking of certain people of this ilk throughout Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a bit more sophisticated than the kind of Borat pranks we’ve seen before, especially when he has to quarantine in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in a secluded cabin with a couple blue collar conspiracy theory believers, the kind who think Democrats drink the blood of children. It’s mind-blowing how these two men somehow recognize the absurdity of the foundations of Borat’s Daughter Owner’s Manual, even going so far as to call its teachings a conspiracy theory, but they somehow don’t see the foolishness in their own beliefs.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg of pure insanity in the movie. Even the gag that stands as one of the bigger moments in the trailer pales in comparison to the most appalling atrocity in the movie, and a certain politician will have a hell of a lot to answer for once everyone sees this thing. The ending of Borat’s narrative comes also with a timely twist that rivals The Usual Suspects (there’s even a quick reference to the movie when it happens, not to mention a later jab taken at one of the film’s stars and their now infamous wrongdoings). Even knowing there’s a twist, you’ll never see this coming.
The brilliance of Sacha Baron Cohen to manufacture these kind of hilarious moments with real people cannot be understated. Right along with him we have Maria Bakalova doing more than holding her own alongside Cohen. I cannot fathom how these two are able to say some of the most fucked-up and funny things to people’s face without cracking each other up. On top of that, the expansive team of writers (Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, and Lee Kern) and director Jason Woliner have done a masterful job of weaving a cohesive narrative through all this hidden camera trickery. While there are a couple gags that feel a little forced into the narrative, the way all these pranks are connected is mostly seamless, even moreso than the first Borat movie.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is easily the funniest movie of 2020. That’s not exactly difficult in a year when there are barely any new comedies to challenge it for the title, but even in a year with stacked comedies, I’m confident this sequel would undeniably come out on top of the pack. Thanks to the presence of Borat’s daughter, the movie isn’t forced to rely solely on treading familiar territory, though there are still some some of Borat’s greatest hits scattered throughout. It’s familiar enough for fans while impressively enhancing and evolving what made the original movie a laugh riot.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm succeeds again in holding up a mirror to the latest embarrassing side of America. The sooner more people realize the warped reflection on display here isn’t the result of a funhouse mirror, but of our own shortcomings, the sooner we can do something about it. That’s why the first thing you see when the credits roll is the translated Kazakh text saying “Now Vote.” So have your laughs when Borat Subsequent Moviefilm hits Amazon Prime on October 23, and then do something.
/Film Rating: 9 out of 10
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