By Elias Savada.
Forget the news about the Russians doing their worst to screw up the coming election, because we have Uzbekistan’s secret weapon. And there’s nothing Trump, Putin, or all those conservative, right-wing Yankees can do about it. Borat‘s back in town.”
Mockumentarians make way for another gatecrashing excursion into American excuses for living. Remember Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan? Well, now we have an audacious sequel, fully emblazoned as Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Just as outrageous with a big splash of potty humor.
For 14 years Borat has been in a gulag prison, serving a life sentence for humiliating his country, although for those of us who truly remember the first film, he was earning a living at the end of Borat 1 by having his new American wife, a former prostitute, offering breast milk to locals back in his home town of Kuzcek. Obviously, the writers (Peter Baynham, Sasha Baron Cohen, Jena Friedman, Anthony Hines, Lee Kern, Dan Mazer, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Swimmer, Nina Pedrad, and Nick Corirossi – some being holdovers from the earlier Kazakhstan invasion) elected for a rewrite. Thankfully, the title character is still firmly rooted in Borat’s misogynistic, anti-Semitic mythology. Happily for Borat, a reprieve arrives from despotic Premier Nazarbayev (Dani Popescu), who has decided to impress his American counterpart, McDonald Trump. It’s time to slyly (and not-so-slyly) poke fun – as if late night television hasn’t done enough already – at the superspreader-in-chief.
The eponymous television reporter, all cleaned up and ready to go, has been away too long! Now, after a surprise announcement less than a month ago that he was about to arrive on America’s shores again (and after this film had been secretly shot, including some catch-up-on-Covid-19 scenes), Borat Sagdiyev (Baron Cohen) is back and Amazon Prime’s got him. While he may not be as original a character as when he arrived with his first feature back in 2006, the Kazakh media journalist still has the same silly agenda. Of course, Borat’s birth actually dates back to 1996, but he became popular doing his satirical interview sequences on Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show. More recently he’s appeared in get-out-the-midterm-vote commercials in 2018.
Baron Cohen, an equal opportunity embarrasser, is needed for one-upping, or one-downing, our current commander-in-chief (cue the brief replay from Borat 1 of his character taking a crap in front of the Trump Tower in NYC). If you want to see the actor’s serious side, he’s also appearing as Abbie Hoffman in Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 over on Netflix.
In Borat 2, it’s all for laughs in the plot concerning the USA’s vice premier, pussy hound Michael Pence. Borat’s boss wants to gift him Johnny the Monkey, a prized sexy primate, but he’s “not as alive as he used to be” by the time Borat and his never-visible entourage arrive in Texas 22 days later, replaced by a stowaway, Borat’s disheveled 15-year-old non-male son, Tutar (a very impressive Maria Bakalova). When she is designated Pence’s new “sexy gift,” she’s beyond thrilled, “I will be the next Queen Melania?” read her English subtitles. I have no idea what language Bakalova and Baron Cohen are speaking, but it certainly feels authentic. Their fractured English is just as unintentionally offending and entertaining.
Instagram sensation Macey Chanel remains gleefully straight while helping start the makeover of the pigpen that is Tutar into a blonde bombshell, later briefly christened Sandra Jessica Parker Drummond during one wickedly hilarious scene.
Sadly, there’s no obsession with Pamela Anderson in this sequel. Or sight of Borat’s brutally naked former sidekick Zamat, except for a small piece of him that makes a brief cameo appearance. That’s okay, prankster Sacha Cohen romps around America with his daughter in tow. They find plenty to poke fun at: modern technology and the pitfalls of search engineering, old-fashioned faxing, Republicans, breast augmentation, right-to-lifers (one of the best scenes in the film), conspiracy theorists, right-wingers, Kevin Spacey, good ole Southern hospitality (which gets riled to the bloody gills by a rousing fertility dance at a gracious debutante ball in Macon, Georgia), and even Sacha Baron’s own celebrity status as Borat.
Borat saddled up his wit and wardrobe to impersonate Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) early this year. That stunt doesn’t go too well. It did catch Pence’s eye, but the effort to get embedded into the Trump administration appear dashed.
As outlandish as just about every scene in the film is, he disguises himself as the outrageous epitome of Nazi Germany’s idea of a Jew (long nose, horns, etc.) before wandering into a synagogue, a quest to confirm the Holocaust was a lie. Instead, Judith Dim Evans, a Holocaust survivor, tames – and feeds – Borat while telling her story. She died before the film’s release (it’s dedicated to her). Recently, her family sued the filmmakers.
While the road trip wanders here and there, the film’s final moments take a real crazy turn, and it involves a scene filmed in July with Borat’s daughter interviewing Trump’s seemingly lecherous personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. What little reputation he had left goes up in embarrassing smoke.
Larry Charles is out (he did the original feature), Jason Woliner is in, as the sequel’s director. He does a good job in his feature debut, after 30 years in television as a producer, director, writer, and/or actor, including stints on Human Giant (2007-2008), Funny or Die Presents…(2010), Eagleheart (2011-2014), and the wonderful The Last Man on Earth (2015-2018). His promotion to Borat 2 is well deserved.
The true discovery here is Bakalova, the 24-year-old Bulgarian actress who handles her role with just as much abandon as Sacha Cohen does. She reminds me of Isla Fisher, who just happens to be Sacha Cohen’s spouse. Fisher got a special thanks in the credits.
Ok, the movie takes some wildly strange detours as it bounds from town to town and schtick to next. Still, Sacha Baron Cohen has a grand design to see his film help in the president’s demise. So, forget the news about the Russians doing their worst to screw up the coming election, because we have Uzbekistan’s secret weapon. And there’s nothing Trump, Putin, or all those conservative, right-wing Yankees can do about it. Borat‘s back in town. Let’s celebrate!
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the horror film German Angst and the new documentary Nuts! He co-authored, with David J. Skal, Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning (a revised edition will be published by Centipede Press).