There is quite simply no one doing what Sacha Baron Cohen is doing right now, and has been doing now for nearly two decades. In a world where "cancel culture" reigns supreme, Cohen's satire is as sharp and deadly as his jokes are raunchy. This is stupidity done smartly. And in "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (yes, that's the full title), he manages to find heart and humanity in a world that doesn't often reflect much of either.
Oh, and then there's that scene. No spoilers here, other than to say that part of this "moviefilm" features a very well-known American political figure doing something you absolutely won't believe...and once the film goes public, there won't be a bigger story.
Sasha Baron Cohen's fictional Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev has been making appearances all the way back to HBO's "Da Ali G Show," (2000-2004) which starred Cohen, as he took up several different disguises and identities in order to expose (and often times as collateral damage, humiliate) his unknowing yet willing subjects. Nobody expected his 2006 "Borat" movie to explode quite the way it did, making over 260 million at the box office, being the highest-grossing R-rated film of that year and landing Cohen an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. But after his "great success!" as the character, fame was a double-edged sword for Borat...the more famous he became, the less likely it was that Cohen was going to be able to dupe anybody new. Cohen in fact, announced at one point that he was retiring the character for good.
But that was then, and this is now. In "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," Cohen resurrects Borat 14 years after the original film, as he's sent off to the "US&A" on a new mission, this time to deliver a special gift to Michael Pence and "McDonald Trump," in order for his homeland of Kazakhstan to redeem its good name among the world's super powers. One hitch: Borat's only daughter, Tuter (newcomer Maria Bakarov), hides away and makes the trip with him, and the results are plentiful, despite some initial skepticism from both Borat and the audience.
Think about what it must be like to have the comedic timing, preparation and skill of Sasha Baron Cohen, to plunge himself into one uncomfortable situation after another, and to do so brilliantly. Then think what it must take to share the screen with him. Maria Bakarov is an absolutely delightful surprise, a new character that we're at first annoyed with her for stealing screen-time away from her father, but who ultimately comes into her own, showing that the future of Cohen's brand of comedy might have a future in other like-minded comedians such as Bakarov. Bakarov is really good and really funny.
And while yes, she is a find, but let's not sleep on Cohen's performance either. It's one thing to stay in character as Borat, but in this movie he is playing Borat who in turn is disguising himself as other characters in order to cover up his American notoriety. It's layer upon layer in a performance that you just can't take your eyes off of, and it's something that is easily to miss given how easy Cohen makes it look.
Of course, this isn't Shakespeare. But what you'll find in all of the envelope-pushing lunacy is some of the sharpest, wittiest comedic insights that you'll find in any comedy, or any film, in any year. Through Borat's blissful ignorance, he exposes the true ignorance of Americans. In this film, he tackles sexism, politics, gender inequality, race relations, bigotry and American culture at large. He even tackles COVID-19.
Not everything works, and some jokes pull from the same dry well, but Cohen's overarching purpose is clear: He is not going to allow people to hide behind their various masks, and by disguising himself, he calls bullshit on people in a way that isn't as much cruel when you think about it, as it is blunt and straight-forward. American hypocrisy is on full display in the best ways possible, thanks to our man, Borat, and now his daughter, Tuter.
Knowing how fresh and new the original "Borat" film felt when it landed in 2006, it's safe to say that this sequel isn't quite as consistently funny...some scenes feel like more of the same, and you'll find yourself imagining just how many scenes might not have worked or that might not have made the final cut.
"Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" starts and ends strong, even while being a bit uneven in the middle portions. There's a charming father/daughter story at its center and more than one scene that will make even a hardened Cohen veteran squirm.
And just. Wait. Until. You. See. "The Scene." You'll know the one when you see it.
Borat Sagdiyev may only be the "#4 journalist in all of Kazhakstan," but in 90 minutes, he does more truth-seeking than many journalists do in a year. And you'll laugh out loud longer and harder than you have since the last "Borat" film.
"Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" might not be the movie that America is ready for, but it's definitely the movie that America deserves.
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
Starring: Sasha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakarov.
Directed by Jason Woliner (feature-film debut).
"Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" is on Amazon Prime Video beginning Friday, October 23rd, 2020.
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