James Jay Edwards reviews Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the latest movie by Sacha Baron Cohen, now streaming on Amazon Prime.
This year, actor/comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has been spotted impersonating Trump during Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the Conservation Political Action Conference and singing a country song at a right-wing rally. Fans immediately wondered if a sequel to his 2006 breakout movie Borat was in the works. Now it’s confirmed; he was indeed shooting scenes for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
Just as the first movie was actually called Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the full title of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Having embarrassed his country in the first movie, journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Baron Cohen) has been shunned at home. To make things right, his leaders have selected him to deliver a gift to America so that Kazakhstan can get back into the good graces of the world superpower.
(Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, official poster, Amazon Studios)
That bribe comes in the form of a trained monkey. And since Borat will be unable to get anywhere near President “McDonald Trump,” the gift will be delivered to Pence instead. So, Borat hops a boat to America, but when he arrives, he learns that his daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova), has stowed away. Father and daughter get into trouble while trying to complete the mission that will turn Borat from a zero to a hero at home. And, of course, a camera crew follows them around the whole time.
Like the first Borat, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is Sacha Baron Cohen running around in costume shooting prank-like footage, usually with real people in place of supporting actors. With the help of director Jason Woliner (The Last Man on Earth, What We Do in the Shadows) and a small army of writers (no joke – there are no fewer than ten credited writers, including Baron Cohen), the film does manage to make narrative sense out of the Jackass-esque gags. Baron Cohen claimed that he would never do a sequel because his character was too recognizable and he could never shoot guerilla-style again, but Borat Subsequent Moviefilm gets over this hurdle by keeping Borat in disguise himself, and by letting daughter Tutar do much of the heavy lifting.
(Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Amazon Studios)
In many ways, Tutar steals the movie. Not in Bakalova’s performance of her (although keeping a straight face must have required some mad skills from the young Bulgarian actress), but in how the movie uses her. Obsessed with the “success” of Melania Trump, or “Queen Melania, the happiest wife in the whole world,” Tutar longs to be able to live in a nice cage in America. She even watches a hilarious Disney-style Donald and Melania Trump movie like it’s a fairy tale. Borat is the name in the title, but Tutar is the catalyst of the movie.
The humor in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is, well, exactly what a fan of Borat would expect it to be. It’s more like a car crash than a movie. It’s amusing at times, but usually it’s just tasteless. Tasteless, offensive, and crude. And nothing is taboo to Borat. At one point, he gets depressed and decides to kill himself by going to a synagogue to wait for the next mass shooting. Topical? Yes. Insensitive? Also yes. But Baron Cohen has always used social commentary as a comic device. Sometimes, it’s just not funny though. And Borat Subsequent Moviefilm does get serious at times, even if it does so in the corniest way possible.
(Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Amazon Studios)
Both the Conservative Political Action Conference and the right-wing country rally incidents are in the movie, but the most controversial – and talked-about – moment in the film concerns Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. Wanting to be a journalist like her father, Tutar scores an interview with the high-profile figure, and let’s just say Giuliani does not come off looking very good. Of course, he jokes around instead of seriously answering her questions, but the real damning part comes when he flirts with Tutar, who is 15 years old in the movie, and then retires to a private room, seemingly expecting more from the girl. Of course, it’s a movie, and a lot can be done with editing, but it’s hard to imagine Giuliani being able to put a positive spin on the scene. He comes off as a huge creep.
In summary, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is just another Borat movie. It’s lowbrow but entertaining enough. And surprisingly, it has a lot to say about the state of the country. Sacha Baron Cohen shows that he is still not afraid to stir the pot a little. Or even a lot.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is streaming on Amazon Prime.