Our reality catches up to the absurd in the new ‘Borat’ sequel — Ultimate Movie Year
Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen, right) returns to America with his teenage daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova) in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” (Courtesy of Amazon Studios)
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Released Oct. 23, 2020
Directed by Jason Woliner
Where to Watch
“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit of Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” was an unexpected and instant phenomenon upon its release in 2006. The movie starred Sacha Baron Cohen as his comedy character Borat Sagdiyev, a culturally ignorant television personality from Kazakhstan, as he remained in character while interacting with real people to satirize American life. Crowds packed theaters with uproarious laughter, moments from the movie became catchphrases and Internet memes, and Baron Cohen rocketed from cult comedian to international fame.
“Borat,” the movie and the character, became a known brand to the world. It seemed impossible to imagine the circumstances that would have to happen for Baron Cohen to fall back underneath the radar, so he could get away with filming a sequel in secret in precisely the same format.
But as you know, 2020 has been that kind of year. Enter “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (one among several titles offered), debuting exclusively on Amazon Prime on Oct. 23.
The sequel reintroduces Borat, now imprisoned in the fictionalized, satirical version of Kazakhstan after the original film 14 years ago turned the country into a laughing stock of the world. Baron Cohen’s vision of Kazakhstan contains all of the worst stereotypes and perceptions of an Eastern Bloc country, where every inch is infected with poverty, intolerance, and authoritative rule. It’s these exact qualities that make Kazakhstan officials believe they have a common ally in the United States President Donald J. Trump, so they release Borat with a mission to give the White House a special gift: Johnny the Monkey, “Kazakhstan’s minister of culture and number one porno star.”
The plan quickly goes awry, thanks to Borat’s teenage daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova). A stowaway on Borat’s return trip to the United States, Tutar dreams of becoming an American princess married to a powerful older man after being inspired by a Disneyfied retelling of Melina Trump’s biography. With Johnny the Monkey out of the picture, Borat conceives a new plan to give Tutar to Vice President Mike Pence. Or any Trump official who’s not in prison or under investigation; they’re not picky, even when the options are limited.
Borat also discovers that his traditional look makes him famous in the U.S. He even inspires a cheap Halloween costume billed as “Stupid Foreign Reporter,” a comparison he finds insulting. To remain inconspicuous, Borat dons several disguises throughout the film to accomplish his mission. Not only does this allow Baron Cohen more freedom to unleash public pranks and stunts, but it also gives viewers the added depth of Baron Cohen playing Borat pretending to be another person.
With Baron Cohen assuming different identities and Bakalova’s previous history as an unknown actress, the filmmakers can stage public stunts that capture honest, unfiltered reactions from unsuspecting people as the original “Borat” film did. Bakalova, in particular, has an astonishing performance throughout the film, as not only must she be as funny and quick-witted as Baron Cohen in these situations to stay in character, but also she must always convey the vulnerability of a 15-year-old girl. She is the movie’s Ginger Rogers, dancing as gracefully as the star and doing it backward.
The original “Borat” appeal was a surgically incisive satire of American culture from an outsider’s perspective. In “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm,” reality has caught up to the absurdity of the comic character. As Borat and Tutar bounce around the country, the film’s stakes continue to increase as 2020 moments like COVID-19, racial protests, and QAnon enter the narrative. The confusion and exasperation of our guides have never been more relatable.
Unfortunately, the new “Borat” suffers from our inability to enjoy the communal, infectious laughter that builds from seeing a comedy in a crowded movie theater. And yet, the addition of Bakalova’s character and the high stakes of 2020 life give “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” a depth and power that improves upon the original. It’s one of the rare comedy sequels that’s worth your time.
Originally published at https://ultimatemovieyear.com on October 21, 2020.