"Borat" sequel has secret weapon to make benefit of movie watchers
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova. Directed by Jason Woliner. Streaming as of Oct. 23 on Amazon Prime Video. 96 minutes. R
Sacha Baron Cohen's riotous rube, Borat Sagdiyev, made gross-out humour seem smart, transgressive and necessary in 2006, when he rocked a pre-Trump world with his picaresque comedy “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."
It was a road movie where Borat, an alleged journalist from a fictionalized Kazakhstan, a remote place untouched by civility, travelled to America in search of enlightenment. What Borat found was a distressing number of people who shared his racist, sexist and intolerant views, although they were slightly better at hiding it.
The film was a hoot, albeit an uncomfortable one that exposed the rot beneath social niceties. We were all in on the gag, laughing at a clown who was willing to go to extremes to unmask the fools he was mocking.
Baron Cohen is back on the beat with the long-awaited sequel, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” or simply "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" or "Borat 2" for short. He's still funny, the humour is still gross, the cultural and political revelations are even nastier and the cinematography and screenplay seem even more improvised. Borat still sports a porn star moustache and ill-fitting grey suit, except for when he's not.
But things have changed, and not just the switching of directors from Larry Charles to Jason Woliner (TV’s “Eagleheart”).
Borat can't flood the senses the way he did before Donald Trump became U.S. president and Trump and his stooges proceeded to coarsen public debate and weaponize democracy. How do you rile movie watchers with a story about a fake journalist from a fabulized country where women are kept in cages, when the U.S. currently has a real president of a real nation where children (the offspring of undocumented immigrants) really are kept in metal enclosures?
Something good comes out of Borat's cage: Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, who plays Borat's 15-year-old daughter Tutar, a rebellious stowaway on her father's return voyage to America. Tutar is even more vulgar and impetuous than her dad, who finds himself having to adopt a variety of disguises because he's now famous in America and too easily recognized. Bakalova, who is actually 24, becomes the film's secret weapon, both narratively and comically.
Their mission, ordered by the Kazakh dictator on pain of death to Borat, is to deliver a bribe to U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence. Their crazy hope is this “gift” will lead to Trump himself, ingratiating impoverished Kazakhstan to a man who adores foreign bullies and also redeem Kazakh pride damaged by the first "Borat" movie.
The bribe was originally supposed to be a clever monkey (don't ask) but it evolves over the course of the film to being Tutar's sexual favours. Circumstances contrive to switch the intended recipient to Trump's lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, who obligingly proves himself every bit the dirty old man he's reputed to be. No spoiler: it's all over the papers, airwaves and interwebs about how the gullible and creepy Giuliani falls for a brazen Baron Cohen/Bakalova fakeout.
He's not the only person who gets punked in the film. Other deserving victims including various factions of Republican Party reptiles, male and female, and a pair of QAnon conspiracy knuckleheads who take Borat into their home.
The jokes are so easy to make and the marks so easy to con, it raises suspicions about just how unscripted and spontaneous this farce really is, especially with eight credited screenwriters, Baron Cohen first and foremost.
The laughs may be fool's gold, but the genuine bonding between Baron Cohen and Bakalova is 24 carat.