Friday 23 October 2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Movie Review)

Back in 2006, a certain mockumentary was released with the sole intention of making fun of the seedier side of American culture. I am of course referring to the Sacha Baron Cohen creation, Borat, a film that was just as funny as it was offensive. The movie was not only a critical and commercial success, it also catapulted the character of Borat into the upper echelons of comedy, not to mention the public consciousness. 

So one of the biggest challenges with attempting to do a sequel, even all these years later, was how to deal with the character's current celebrity status. A lot of the gags in the first movie were unscripted, and they worked because no one knew who Borat was at the time. It seems that Sacha Baron Cohen has figured out just the right way to get around the problem, because his new movie is just as funny and offensive as ever.

We are taken back to the "once glorious nation of Kazakhstan" at the start of the film, and the film immediately sets off by retconning the first one's ending, where Borat had received a hero's welcome after finishing his documentary. It turns out that he had in fact brought shame upon the entire country, and was currently rotting away in prison for his actions. At least until he is once again called upon by his government for another mission.

This time around, he is to deliver a gift (read: bribe) to the US president, Donald Trump, through the vice president, Michael Pence, all in a bid to get Kazakhstan back into the good graces of the current US government. So he journeys to the US once again, with a lone cameraman to document his mission (apparently, his producer from the last film hadn't received a punishment as lenient as the one he'd gotten). 

It doesn't take long before things go off the rails though, after he loses the gift he was supposed to be delivering, and discovers that his daughter had stowed away with him in a bid to accompany him on his mission. Now he is forced to improvise, or risk getting executed in the most gruesome way imaginable.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is Sacha Baron Cohen doing what he does best. The film is just as funny as the first one, even though a lot of that first film's novelty has been lost in the 14 years since 2006. This is not to say that this new one doesn't manage to do a few things better than its predecessor.

The biggest improvement came in the form of a fully-developed story, which in turn allowed for way more character development than the first movie could accommodate. Unlike the first movie, which was effectively just a series of gags that were edited into something resembling a narrative after the fact, this one felt more like an actual film.

Also worthy of praise is the inclusion of Maria Bakalova, who plays Borat's daughter, Tutar, in the movie. She's put in a star-making turn with her performance, and I am eager to see her take on even more comedic roles in the future. Hopefully we don't have to wait another 14 years for another sequel before that happens.

Sacha Baron Cohen once again succeeds at poking fun at various American values and belief systems, from the new to the less trendy and archaic. The fact that his latest film still manages to tell a heartfelt story, with one of the best twist endings I've seen in a while, only further strengthens the case for why this movie is as effective in its social commentary today as the first movie was in the midst of the war on terror, and why we are all better for it.

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