2006 was a wild time. That year, Sacha Baron Cohen brought a character from his short-lived sketch show into the mainstream. Borat Sagdiyev, a bigoted anti-Semite journalist, traveled across the country in 2006. And through unscripted vignettes, Cohen as Borat put a mirror in front of American society, showcasing the vile bigotry found in the nation. Because of its goofy comedy and clever satire of the bush era, Borat was a unique phenomenon.
Now, it’s 2020. America is more divided than ever, a racist is in office, and COVID-19 has created extreme tensions. Therefore, it seemed like a matter of time before Borat came back. As a result, Sacha Baron Cohen, along with a skeleton crew, secretly filmed a Borat sequel. And just in time before the election, we now have a follow-up to the famed comedy smash on Amazon.
However, there is the fear that Borat’s schtick doesn’t work twice. He’s too famous of a character now to trick people. Luckily, thanks to some clever make-up and a surprisingly sweet story, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm triumphs as a sequel. Honestly, it might be on par with its predecessor.
How Did They Do That?
While not as big of a novelty, there is still plenty of fun here over people being duped by this foreigner. Cohen takes potshots on the entire political right, and each moment is funnier than the last. There’s of course the one ill-fated scene with Rudy Giulani that got everybody talking. But there’s also Borat posing as a Klansman, performing as a country singer, and taking his daughter to a debutante ball to disastrous results.
It’s consistently funny and an amazing showcase of Cohen as a comedic talent. His ability to stay in character is incredible and his body language and mannerisms manage to tow the line between hilarious but believable. But what is most impressive is how he interacts with extremist conservatives. In a QAnon era, there’s plenty of great opportunities for a bigoted figure like Borat to play off these real people. There’s something oddly depressing that Borat’s cartoonish persona is less extreme than politics today. And Cohen knows how to do it effectively.
However, Cohen is not alone. Borat has a 15-year-old daughter named Tutar played by Maria Baklova. Baklova is on par with Cohen’s wit and talents here. She takes full advantage of each situation, is quick on her feet with her improv, and knows how to get the perfect reaction out of the people she’s trolling. It’s consistently hilarious no matter who is on screen, and it’s a joy to see the duo work with one another. One scene involving a baby is absolutely gold.
People love Borat for its goofy gross-out laughs. However, that does not mean it would work the same way twice. There had to be something new to get audiences invested. And sure enough, Sacha Baron Cohen managed to do something that seemed impossible. He gave Borat a heart. The main crux of the story is the relationship between Borat and his daughter. People were excited for Michael Pence and pandemic-themed comedy. But this father-daughter duo is what makes the movie work as a sequel.
Much of the film is based around Tutar discovering that the Kazakh culture she lived in was a lie. It is through these crazy times she gains an understanding about who she is and that the world her father told her about isn’t so dim and gloomy. As much as Maria Baklova shines in the comedy, she brings emotional stakes to this story and carries the film just as much as Cohen. Their dynamic is oddly sincere and there’s a real strong chemistry here that grounds the narrative.
Probably some of the best moments are when Tutar interacts with a babysitter named Jeanise Jones. There’s a real heart to her sequences that give the film more dramatic weight. Even more powerful is that Jones was unaware she was in a movie. All of these moments were sincere and from the heart. Through this angle, it really felt like Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was an evolution for the character.
Major kudos should also be given to Cohen and his team for managing to craft a coherent story around one of the most incoherent years in history.
To Sum Up…
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm isn’t as timeless as its predecessor. And it likely won’t be seen as iconic or as memorable as its predecessor. But through some fun comedy hi-jinx and a sincere heart, it still manages to stay tow to tow with its predecessor. There’s something so wonderful about seeing a great comedic talent again, and it’s clear Maria Bakalova is a star in the making.
And really, as we are on the verge of potential political turmoil (the movie even ends with telling people to vote), there is something nice that at least one person out there is giving us something to laugh about. Even if it’s a cartoonish anti-Semite.
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