It keeps me up at night wondering how many reviewers start their pieces on this sequel to Borat with something like ‘MY NAME A ___. THIS MOVIE IS VERY NICE, HIGH FIVE!’. Honestly though, who can blame them? I was only a six when Sacha Baron Cohen made his most popular debut onto American cinema screens. Yet, the lasting cultural impact of the was, and still is, absolutely staggering. It is noteworthy that Cohen’s later films such as The Dictator were quoted heavily in my social circles as a teenager in the early 2010s (I remember ‘HIV Aladeen’ being tossed around a lot in Secondary School), showing his range as a character actor. A personality like Borat, however, is generational.
It is hard to compare Borat and Borat 2, as they both exist in different temporal and cultural contexts. If I had to, I wouldn’t go as far as saying Borat 2 is better than the original. Still, Subsequent MovieFilm is a worthy successor to Cohen’s legacy of grand trollery throughout the United States. It may even be, shockingly, one of the most wholesome movies of 2020.
We begin the film with Borat serving hard time in a gulag for the damage his movie in 2006 did to Kazakhstan’s global reputation. However, the government now requires him once again for a rather special mission: deliver Johnny, the pornographic monkey, to Vice President Michael Pence as a gift. There’s an issue, however, as his stowaway daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova) interrupts his embassy.
Cringe comedy is like horror: you want to look away, but you love the fact that you cant. Borat is a maestro at extracting uncomfortable reactions out of his ‘victims’ and viewers at home. Unlike those terrible YouTube pranks, it is all topped off nicely with the harsh sting of the reality of what the United States is: a political shitshow. The wounds are fresher than they were in 2006, and after the shock win of Donald Trump, this is merely adding salt to the gash, albeit, very funny salt.
I was initially unsure about Borat’s pairing with Tutar. Despite Azamat having some great scenes in the original movie, I always thought Borat worked better as a solo act. However, my doubts were overlooked once I saw how brilliant Maria Bakalova was. She matches Cohen’s bravery and trickery exceedingly well. Oscar buzz is a bit of a reach, but if Green Book can win Best Picture, why not? As characters, their relationship is, at times, genuinely heartwarming. As a comparison to the original Borat, you don’t exactly ‘feel’ like he’s learned much. Still, Borat 2 shows that actually, you can balance outrageously offensive material with actual progressive points to make. The only recent comedy that comes relatively close is Sorry to Bother You, or perhaps even Jojo Rabbit.
From Holocaust jokes to Rudy Giuliani’s career in jeopardy, I can’t think of a film that summarises that bullshit bonanza of 2020 better than Borat Subsequent MovieFilm. It isn’t exactly going for gold, and I wouldn’t go in expecting sparkling thematic resonance. Nevertheless, a good laugh is what we need after a remarkably rough year. All hail the man who raised a generation of people to exclaim ‘MY WIFE’ out of context across the globe.