“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” directed by Jason Woliner, was released on Amazon Prime Video on Oct. 23, 2020. As Halloween approaches, Sacha Baron Cohen once again dawns the infamous Borat costume and returns to America where the original 2006 film took place. After one-and-a-half decades of absence, the character seems to have aged better in some aspects than others.
For those unaware, the Borat films star writer and actor Sacha Baron Cohen. In many of the films’ scenes, Cohen improvises conversations with real people while remaining completely in character as Borat. In fact, in order to have individuals agree to appear in the films, “Borat” often convinces the people featured that they are appearing in a legitimate foreign documentary. This method of persuasion is why even those who speak controversially aren’t edited out of the film, as they technically signed to permit the use of their likeness.
Besides the non-scripted scenes, there are scripted scenes to provide narrative structure. Borat must return to the United States to improve the reputation of his home country, Kazakhstan. Borat and the Kazakhstan government decided a gift to American Vice President Michael Pence would retain Kazakhstan’s image to the world. On the journey, Borat is joined by his daughter Tutar, played by Maria Bakalova, who attempts to gain the respect of her misogynistic father. The story is as outlandish as every element of the Borat character.
Frankly, it feels as if the 2020 film actively encourages viewers to be mindful of the 2006 movie. The sequel features constant references to the first film, usages of Borat’s iconic catchphrases, and even a segment where Borat must disguise himself to avoid Americans recognizing him are included elements to the film’s nostalgic appeal. Some may view this as pandering, but I felt it added unity to the overall story.
Cohen’s acting is as outstanding as ever. Borat is played with heavy charisma and flair, both on-screen and off. Bakalova also did fantastic as Tutar. Initially, I feared Borat having an equally zany counterpart would leave little time for bystander interactions. Yet, I feel Bakalova allowed for even more bizarre and entertaining improvised moments to occur.
Above all, the Borat sequel’s main role is that of a sociopolitical satire. Coinciding with inappropriate jokes and bodily humor, Borat’s interactions with Americans are to reveal first hand how the country deals with issues such as homophobia and political differences. The film’s production has immaculate timing, as America’s handling of the Corona Virus made both sides of the political spectrum run rampant. In fact, some of the best jokes are due to the harsh irony of what politicians said earlier this year.
What may turn certain viewers off is the film’s clear left-leaning bias. In a heavily-political satire, it is expected to have jabs at radical elements in political parties; yet, Republicans and Trump supporters were the punchlines to jokes for a majority of the film. Personally, I understand the film’s aiming at the more radical individuals, with me being a Republican who’s fine with most of the jokes. Still, the condescending tone will certainly alienate many potential viewers. In general, the film’s humor was tragically underwhelming. Only a few jokes were exceptionally memorable, especially during certain civilian interactions. But there were moments where sexual and toilet humor ran rampant, leading to me remaining stone-faced for multiple minutes. In the modern age, I personally find no value in aggressively coarse material, particularly when it becomes an entire scene’s primary punchline.
The candid-style of cinematography made the film feel authentic. The camera included the entire landscape of the events featured, adding to the “mock-documentary” style the film utilizes. Many scenes also feature varied shots of citizens’ reactions, which is a key element to the improvised moments. In addition, I was fond of the visuals used for screen transitions, as the use of English subtitles placed over a foreign language added personality to the film. I also enjoyed the Kazakhstan-esq reimaginings of popular American songs.
Overall, I give Borat a 6.5 out of 10. Cohen and his staff’s efforts towards creating satire thorough improvised civilian interactions should certainly be acknowledged. The clear agenda and, at times, unrelentingly tedious jokes hurts the film, especially when online film database iMBD classifies “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” as a comedy. Despite the film’s weaker capitalization of its potential, I would still say to check “Borat 2” out if you’re a fan of the first film.