There are many bad films out there.
There are many cynical cash grab films. There are many sequels that should have never been made. There are many films that serve to convince the makers that their time has not come and gone. There are many low-quality self-proclaimed comedies and horrors that rely on shock and gross-out in order to get a rise out of the audience. Lately, we’ve been seeing films that are just extended Trump Derangement Syndrome episodes.
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is an ill-begotten, ill-conceived, and ill-executed example of all of those.
Author’s note: In the interest of brevity, I’ve refrained from adding “yes, really,” “I shit thee not,” “believe you me,” and similar constructions to this review — but rest assured, they apply to the entirety of the described.
Released by Four by Two (get it?) productions, Sacha Baron-Cohen resurrects his character Borat Sagdiyev after 14 years of dormancy to once again tour the United States and obtain cultural learnings from America. Well, no, not quite. Borat has been sent to the gulag for humiliating Kazakhstan in the 2006 film, but is recruited by Kazakhstan’s Premier (a fictionalized version of President Nursultan Nazarbayev) to help induct the Premier into a “strongman club” started by McDonald Trump, which also includes Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin, and Jair Bolsonaro. Now, because Borat once took a dump in front of the Trump International Hotel, it is decided that it would be better for him to deal with Mike Pence, onto whom the film’s delusional narrative projects the sexual incontinence now recognized as typical of Baron-Cohen’s tribe. Borat is to deliver a very valuable sex monkey to Mike Pence.
Before he can commence his journey, Borat arrives home to learn that his neighbor, Nursultan Tulyakbay (he pain in my assholes) has taken over his house, his Mikhail Mouse pajamas, and his sons — one of whom has changed his name from Hueylewis to Jeffreyepstein as a symbolic rejection of his disgraced father. All that is left is Borat’s livestock, two pigs, and his daughter Tutar, portrayed by Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova.
Tutar, age 15 (an old maid by Kazakh standards), is introduced chained in a barn and watching a Disneyesque TV program about Melania, a poor peasant girl from shithole country Slovenia (shh, nobody tell Sacha that London has been a bigger shithole than Slovenia since some time in the 60s) who married rich fat king Donald. Like any good Kazakh girl, Tutar wants to be sold to a fat old king who’ll keep her in a golden cage. She asks her father to take her with him to US of A, but he refuses, citing the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture’s daughter manual.
Once Borat is in America, we are treated to the usual Sacha Baron Cohen fare of crude humor resulting from interactions with normal people trying to deal with a funny foreigner. This falls flat, because — and this bears repeating — Borat is 14 years old, and Ali G, which relied on a similar kind of crude humor, is even older. Turns out you can’t beat laughs out of a horse that has been dead for 14 years. There’s also a sense of low energy, and that this is just filler to extend the movie for the real happenings, the real humor. Therefore, we have to see what is apparently Nursultan Nazarbayev’s penis on a fax that Borat receives before the plot can move forward.
As it turns out, Borat’s daughter has shipped herself in the cargo container box meant for Pence’s sex monkey — and has apparently eaten the monkey. Distraught and fearing execution, Borat decides to deliver his 15-year-old daughter as a bribe to the sex fiend Mikhail Pence. And thus father and daughter embark on a quest to prepare her to be as pleasing to Mike Pence as possible.
This serves the filmmakers. Most unscripted interactions are with Tutar instead of Borat, who is instantly recognized in America and has to go around in disguise most of the time. They first meet an Instagram influencer, where we witness 15-year-old Tutar open a beer bottle with her asshole (gracefully, the actress is not underage). Then they go to a hair and make-up studio, disrupt a debutantes’ ball with menstrual effusions, and even attempt to get Tutar a rhinoplasty and boobjob at a plastic surgery, where the surgeon shows a canny awareness of the typical length and shape of the Hebrew tribe’s most prominent physical characteristic. Sadly, they are $72 short, so Borat goes to make money working, leaving Tutar in the care of a wise black woman who teaches Tutar all the virtues of female independence.
When Borat enters the RNC to present Tutar as a gift to uncontrollable sex maniac Mike Pence, he wears Klan robes, because that is a fresh and original joke. He then attempts to give Tutar (slung over his shoulder) to Mike Pence while dressed as McDonald Trump, just as Pence is giving a speech and is unceremoniously thrown out by security. The absolute gem of this scene — and perhaps this entire film — is the look of utter disdain on Mike Pence’s face as the fourth wall collapses and we realize that yeah, Sacha Baron Cohen just made an ass of himself and got chucked out for his trouble.
This is how the film should have ended. In fact, now that I think of it, it should have never even begun. If I’m being completely honest, I’d greatly prefer watching just the scene where Sacha Baron Cohen is thrown out of the RNC on his ass with Mike Pence disdainfully looking on.
The film, however, continues on as the wise black woman sows discord between Borat and his daughter when she teaches her that girls can touch their vaginas. Overjoyed, Tutar touches her vagina and then goes on to a Republican women’s meeting to inform them all that they can and should touch their vaginas. The shocked women clap politely and call her an Uber. She disavows her father and the Ministry of Agriculture’s daughter manual, deciding to become a female journalist instead, but not before rudely informing Borat that the Holocaust, which the Kazakhs celebrate as their crowning achievement, didn’t happen. Borat is so distraught that he dresses up as a Jew and goes into a synagogue to wait for a mass shooting. (As we all know, Jews are hunted in the streets of McDonald Trump’s America.) Luckily, two yentas are there to disabuse him of his silly notions that the Holocaust didn’t happen. One of them was even there — she saw it with her own eyes! Borat is so happy that he hugs her.
His joy is short-lived, as he finds himself trapped in the middle of the coronavirus lockdowns with a couple of men the film desperately tries to portray as dangerous redneck survivalist conspiracy theorists — but they look like a pair of regular bubbas to me, if a little too willing to marinate in Conservative Inc. tropes. We in the audience are supposed to be scared, because Borat has infiltrated the heart of the enemy’s encampment in rural Texas. The film treats these men — who out of the kindness of their hearts take Borat into their home during the lockdowns because he has nowhere else to go — as dangerous time bombs ready to explode.
Borat discovers that his daughter has been working as a reporter and is planning to attend a rally opposing the lockdowns. Together with those evil survivalist redneck conspiracy theorists, he devises a plan to win back her allegiance and deliver her as a bribe to Rudy Giuliani to gain favor with McDonald Trump’s inner circle. But before the familial reunion can happen, we are treated to a scene where Borat, in the guise of “Country Steve,” sings a song about how the corona is fake, Obama is a traitor, and that journalists should be cut into pieces like the Saudis. Don’t waste your time listening to the song. It’s not good nor even catchy. Sacha has declined greatly since the glory days of “Throw the Jew Down The Well.”
Long story short, Borat reconciles with Tutar (now Grace Sagdiyev) and she agrees to willingly offer herself to Rudy Giuliani to save her father from a painful execution.
This is it. This is what the previous hour and 20 minutes of filler have been for, folks. The big gotcha interview with Rudolph Giuliani conducted by Maria Bakalova pretending to be Tutar Sagdiyev. And what do we get? We get an older gentleman mildly flirting with what he thinks is a nervous young reporter. She then tricks him into tucking his shirt on a bed, ostensibly to fix the microphone setup, getting us half a second of Giuliani fiddling with his shirt, all to ominous tones and Dutch angles intended to obscure the reality of the situation and present Giuliani as a dirty old man.
I believe that in US of A they call this a nothingburgers.
The climax of the film isn’t even a gotcha, like in the good ol’ days of the Ali G interviews. It’s not even outrageously funny, like Ron Paul’s unfortunate encounter with the “queer as blazes” Brüno. It’s just tense and boring with no resolution.
Having had a change of conscience, Borat bursts in at the last moment to protect his daughter from the belt-ruffling Giuliani. The movie then concludes with the revelation that the Kazakh government developed COVID-19 and used Borat to spread it around the world. Kazakhstan becomes a feminist country. They replace the running of the Jew with the running of the American, where they run a Trump supporter and a Karen with an AR-15, who shoots down a rubber Anthony Fauci. Borat and his daughter are now both reporters and the world’s a little happier. Snooze.
The movie does a good job of throwing a bucketload of Current Year tropes and memes at us, which serve to remind us that Sacha Baron Cohen’s tired old schtick is still as relevant and as amusing as it was in the George W. Bush era. I’ve said much of what I have to say about his brand of humor and its topicality in an earlier article, concerned with his recent commitment to internet censorings as part of the ADL. I could simply copy the main thrust of my argument there word for word. In fact, I encourage you to read or re-read that article, as it gets into some of my objections to Borat’s brand of comedy, Sacha Baron Cohen’s hypocrisy, his motivation for lampooning whites, and his projection of Jewish pathologies on white people.
Nothing has changed in Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm.
The first Borat was lauded for poking fun at Americans, but it was genuinely amusing for combining the funny foreigner trope with unbelievably transgressive slapstick (who can forget the naked fight between Borat and his producer Azamat?). The second film tries to repeat the same, tired, old funny foreigner jokes 14 years after the original — and replaces the slapstick with either disgusting displays of bodily fluids or gags that feel forced and unnatural. Not even Borat dressed up as a go-go girl can evoke laughter anymore. Not even Borat with his emblematic yellow thong replaced by a face mask.
It is the opinion of this reviewer that Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is a relevant, timely, and side-splittingly funny work of comedic brilliance. . .
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