By Lynn Venhaus
The highly anticipated sequel to 2006’s “Borat” is similarly equal parts offensive, outrageous and hilarious.
The original mockumentary was so shocking and different that it earned an Oscar nomination for screenplay and a Golden Globe for Sacha Baron Cohen as Best Actor in a Comedy.
This time, however, we’re in on the joke. The film’s original title: “Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to the American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” has been finessed.This is a follow-up centering on the real-life adventures of a fictional Kazakh television journalist. But this time it is more political as he travels across the South, first starting in Texas.
Baron Cohen is recognized during his antics in character, so he dons wigs and fat suits to play rednecks and American dads — and even puts on a “McDonald Trump” costume to disrupt a Mike Pence speaking engagement at CPAC.
With eight screenwriters — including Baron Cohen and some familiar names going way back to his “Da Ali G Show” days, the episodic journey is scattershot. Even at 95 minutes, director Jason Woliner’s style is choppy and uneven.
The intrepid reporter Borat, trying to redeem his honor in his country of Kazahkstan, picks too easy targets in devout Christian, flag-flying MAGA hat-wearing country, where people think the coronavirus is a hoax, they bring guns to picnics and they give this foreigner the side eye.
Always shedding light on anti-Semitism, Borat has a cake decorated with “Jews will not replace us.” That is his satirical way of taking on bigotry.
In the credits, Baron Cohen honors Holocaust Survivor Judith Dim Evans (1932 – 2020), who is in the synogogue scene but died shortly before the film’s release. “I feel obligated to be a good person and to bring good to the world. We owe the dead,” he quotes her saying.
As a “gotcha” journalism parody, the film skewers sacred cows and excesses in American life. The crude and lewd content is designed to make us squirm.
As with the other film, I’m uncomfortable when he is making fun of ordinary people who aren’t in on the joke, but I’m OK when people who deserve it get their comeuppance. And this time, there are some regular folk who can barely contain their smile at being part of a Borat film, so we know they are willing participants.
Baron Cohen is fearless, and he loves to stir things up. The jaw-dropping scene where daughter Tutar (aka Sandra Jessica Parker Sagdeyev), poses as a reporter for a conservative TV show, “Patriot Reports.” is now the much-talked about “shirt-tucking” incident with Trump attorney Rudy Guiliani.
I can’t unsee what I saw, and Guiliani shamelessly flirts with Tutar (Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova) during the interview, and then when she asked “Shall we have a drink in the bedroom?”, he follows her into the room. Borat, dressed in skimpy under-garments, saves the day.
That is only a fraction of the film, but it’s the one making headlines during this election cycle.
Baron Cohen, whose versatility as a supporting performer is obvious — Thenardier in “Les Miserables,” Pirelli in “Sweeney Todd” and recently, Abbie Hoffman in “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” delights in being as silly as possible in his own character creations.
Actually, the movie becomes a female empowerment statement near the end, and Bakalova and Baron Cohen work well together as daughter and father duo.
In a bizarre year, the fact that Baron Cohen can’t make up stuff that is more absurd than reality really says something.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is a comedy directed by Jason Woliner and written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja,Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern . It stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova and others as themselves.
Rated R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity and language, run-time is 1 hr. 36 min. Lynn’s Grade: B
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.