by Zach McGuckin
Before I begin my review, I must make a quick confession. I watched the original Borat film, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” a little over a week ago and I didn’t love it. I recognize its merit, but a lot of the commentary felt underbaked and the satire was uncomfortable to the point of being irresponsible. I thought the film was good on the whole, I was underwhelmed by it. One thing I can’t deny about the original Borat film, however, is its longevity. The fact that such a niche comedy would remain popular enough to gain a sequel 14 years after its initial release remains bewildering and shows how the original film speaks to something universal about American society. I don’t think this claim is something the sequel, “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm,”can boast.
The first film ended with Borat (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) returning to his home country of Kazakhstan after filming a documentary on American culture. The only problem is that Borat’s documentary turned Kazakhstan into a global laughing stock, and he is sentenced to life in a labor camp. The sequel picks up as Borat is released in order to return to America. His goal this time around is to present Johnny the Monkey as a gift to Vice President Mike Pence in order to strengthen the ties between Kazakhstan and the Trump administration. Borat’s daughter, Tutar (played by Maria Bakalova), sneaks into the crate with Johnny the Monkey in an attempt to spend more time with Borat and ends up eating the former. Borat decides that his only choice is to give Pence his daughter instead. The rest of the film follows Borat and Tutar as they travel through America, getting into all sorts of trouble and preparing Tutar to become Pence’s wife.
The film’s premise is ridiculous, but the writing is smart. As opposed to the more general commentary of the first film, this one delves deep into the issue of misogyny as it explores the relationship between the Borat and his daughter. They have great chemistry during the comedic bits, but any serious attempts at drama feel underdeveloped and come off as cold. The majority of other characters aren’t actors, but real people who aren’t aware of the film. This fact leads to some hilarious comedy with plenty of shock and gross-out humor. Mike Pence and Rudi Giuliani both appear in the film, and Giuliani’s role in particular is an eye-opening look into how our politicians behave when they aren’t aware that cameras are rolling.
This film is extremely “of the moment”, with much of its commentary being related to the Trump Administration. Shot almost entirely during this year, the way the film incorporates real world events like the pandemic and the shelter in place orders into the plot of the film is genius. This “of the moment” nature, however, is also one of the film’s greatest weaknesses. Borat’s first film was able to stay relevant for this long because it pointed out injustices in our culture that still exist. “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”, on the other hand, is too specific to the current moment to feel worth watching after it. It’s a well-done comedy for now, but I doubt anyone will be revisiting this one in 14 years. 7/10 Pinecones.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.