‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’: Fictional foreigner no wiser in USA return, daughter in tow
Though his jokes don’t always land, Sacha Baron Cohen’s creation remains a fearless and funny comic force in sequel.
Fourteen years after Kazakhstan journalist Borat came to America to make a documentary about our great nation, he’s back in the USA — older, dumber, far more famous and arguably even more politically incorrect and offensively funny than he was in 2006. And while Sacha Baron Cohen’s outrageous creation is now familiar to tens of millions of Americans, thus making it more difficult for him to pull off his special brand of prankster humor, he still manages to shine a spotlight on a wide array of targets, including a couple of very high-profile Republican leaders.
Amazon Studios presents a film directed by Jason Woliner and written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman and Lee Kern. Rated R (for pervasive strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and language). Running time: 96 minutes. Available Friday on Amazon Prime Video.
As we learn in the prologue, Borat’s first documentary turned his homeland into a global embarrassment, and he was given a life sentence of hard labor in the Gulag. Even Borat’s family is ashamed of him; we learn one son changed his name to Jeffrey Epstein in order to disassociate himself from the family name. (Hey. Not all the jokes are winners.)
Now, however, Borat is getting a second chance to redeem himself and restore Kazakhstan’s reputation. He is to return to America and present Vice President Mike Pence with the gift of a special genius monkey, which somehow will make everything right. Alas, the genius monkey doesn’t survive the journey (don’t ask), but Borat’s 15-year-old daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova) HAS made the trip as a stowaway, which inspires what qualifies as a brainstorm for the brainless Borat: He will deliver his daughter to Pence as a gift. “I will be next Queen Melania?” says the poor misguided girl.
Off we go on a series of faux documentary adventures, with Borat and/or Tutar taking on such easy targets as an Instagram influencer who coaches Tutar on how to land a sugar daddy; a debutante ball in Macon, Georgia; a Republican Women’s Club meeting, and a state fair in Texas. Borat arrives at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February of 2020 dressed as a Klansman and shouting, “I’m Stephen Miller, sorry I’m late!” and later crashes Pence’s speech in a Trump costume, carrying his daughter over his shoulder. Later, disguised as a singer who calls himself “Country Steve,” Borat takes the stage at a conservative rally and gets the crowd to sing along with a ditty about how we should give Barack Obama, reporters and scientists the Saudi Arabian treatment, i.e., murder and dismemberment.
We almost — almost — feel sorry for some of the dupes, including a couple of amiable backwoods conservatives who regurgitate conspiracy theories about the Clintons and when asked what is worse, the COVID virus or Democrats, immediately respond “Democrats.” There’s also a surprisingly touching interlude when Borat enters a synagogue dressed in the most offensive anti-Semitic get-up imaginable — and is greeted with kindness and compassion by two elderly Jewish women who sincerely want to show him the errors of his ways and envelope him with compassion and tolerance.
Then there’s the instantly notorious sequence involving Tutar (who is following in her father’s footsteps and trying to become a journalist) conducting an interview with Rudy Giuliani, who is very encouraging and very handsy and very willing to have drinks with his interviewer. Though Giuliani doesn’t know the person interviewing him is playing a 15-year-old, what transpires is still bizarre and disturbing and creepy.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” gets in digs at “President McDonald Trump,” as the title character calls the POTUS, as well as Facebook, Justin Trudeau, Kevin Spacey, American “Karens” and, for some reason, Dog the Bounty Hunter, among other targets. (There’s also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from a two-time Oscar winner.) The vulgar running jokes about how poorly women are treated in Borat’s culture are of course meant to contain underlying social commentary, but maybe half the comedic punches land, while the remainder are more crude than funny.
There is a certain oddball charm to the movie within the movie, as Tutar enjoys a newfound independence and Borat comes to love his daughter even though it goes against everything he’s ever been taught. Sacha Baron Cohen remains a fearless and funny comedic force, and Maria Bakalova is hilarious and endearing as Tutar. We also get a clever twist ending and I’ll say no more than that. Borat is an idiot, but “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” ends on a pretty smart note.