Borat review: Crass, vulgar… but if you love the first movie you’ll be smitten, writes BRIAN VINER who gives it four stars
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is not the only person entitled to watch Borat 2 through his fingers. For the rest of us, too, that is at times the only proper response to a comedy that doesn’t so much push at the boundaries of taste as bulldoze them over the edge of a cliff.
The set-up is the same as the 2006 mockumentary which first introduced Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional Kazakh journalist to an unsuspecting world.
Baron Cohen’s Borat, accompanied this time by his teenage daughter Tutar (credited as Maria Bakalova), travels through America hoodwinking real people into thinking he is the genuine article.
Vice President Mike Pence didn’t know it at the time, but when he delivered his speech at CPAC earlier this year, he was actually taking part in a secret sequel to Borat (pictured)
Since the events of 2006, he has spent years breaking rocks in the gulag for bringing shame on his country by making it a global laughing stock.
But now he has been given a mission – and with it, a chance to rescue his reputation. Again and again, he convinces folk that he really has brought Tutar along as a gift for ‘Vice-Premier Mikhail Pence’, the second-in-command to the magnificent ‘Premier McDonald Trump’, as a way of redeeming his distant homeland in the eyes of the ‘US and A’.
The results – including a scene in which, dressed as Trump, he interrupts Pence’s address to a Republican rally – are by turn riotously funny and almost unwatchably uncomfortable.
There is another scene in which Borat and Tutar attend a debutante ball in the city of Macon, in the southern state of Georgia.
Baron Cohen’s Borat, accompanied this time by his teenage daughter Tutar (credited as Maria Bakalova), travels through America hoodwinking real people into thinking he is genuine
Baron Cohen once more violates the unwritten rules of screen comedy
She is solemnly presented as an undergraduate at ‘Grand Canyon University’, studying ‘cage maintenance and electronics with a focus on VCR repairs’.
Just as you’re marvelling at their XX-sized gullibility and processing the sheer improbability of proud fathers and their southern belle daughters, dressed to the nines, going through this absurd social rigmarole in the 21st century, just as the laughter is again bubbling up in your throat at the spectacle of the Kazakh duo taking to the floor to perform their fertility dance, it coagulates into something else entirely.
Baron Cohen once more violates the unwritten rules of screen comedy. Is it outrage? Horror? Disgust? Suppressed hysteria? You will have to decide for yourself.
In a way, that is Baron Cohen’s genius. Once again, he has masterminded a film (though it is directed by Jason Woliner) that is beyond anyone else’s ability or daring. He makes patsies of everyone he and Tutar encounter, nobody more so than Giuliani, the 76-year-old former mayor of New York City, who grants this engaging foreign girl an interview in a hotel suite – then ends up in a situation that, unless there is some cinematic sleight of hand involved, looks horribly compromising.
Borat and Tutar attend a debutante ball in the city of Macon, in the southern state of Georgia
I’ve already watched it twice, and I’m still not quite sure what I saw. Either way, 24-year-old Bulgarian actress Bakalova is terrifically good – on occasion even upstaging Baron Cohen himself. Just like the original, Borat 2 is audaciously brilliant in that it starts off looking like a mickey-take of a backward, former Soviet republic, when really the only object of the mockery is America.
In particular, this film sets out to catch the more diehard Trump supporters and far-Right conspiracy theorists, scooping up more than a few others in its satirical net, such as a cosmetic surgeon quite happy to inflate the breasts of 15-year-old Tutar, who wants only to be the next ‘Queen Melania’.
Most of them unwittingly conspire in their own ridicule, though there are times – as with a kindly Holocaust survivor in a synagogue – when your heart goes out to them. Not everyone deserves to be one of Borat’s victims.
Similarly, not everyone will want to see this film. If the TV show Game For A Laugh made you wince, it’s definitely not for you.
Ditto, if you think everyone should be permitted their convictions and ways of life without being played as fools by a subversive Englishman with a candid camera and a political agenda.
All the same, there were moments when it made me laugh more than any film has for ages, possibly since the original Borat.
And three cheers, too, for its topicality. MeToo sensibilities are cheekily addressed, as Tutar begins to find that the suppression of women in her own country – where it is ‘enshrined in law’ that men must not love their daughters as much as their sons – is not the case everywhere.
And there is an inspired twist involving the Covid-19 pandemic.
But maybe I’ve already given too much away. If you loved the original Borat, then you will be smitten again. This one is even better.
If you thought it crass, vulgar and unutterably puerile, well – this one is a fair bit worse.
Borat 2 is available on Amazon Prime Video from tomorrow.
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