In 2006, America was introduced to the Kazakh television journalist Borat Sagdiyev in the film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, more commonly known by its abbreviated title of simply Borat. The film was a cultural phenomenon, and propelled the lovably eccentric anti-Semite from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Da Ali Show into an oft-imitated icon. Over the years, Sacha Baron Cohen has unleashed an array of new characters in movies and television. No matter how biting the satire or how outrageous the humor, Cohen’s other characters always lived in the shadow of Borat. 14 years later, Borat Sagdiyev has made his triumphant return in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. While this sequel may not hit the same dizzying comedic highs as its predecessor, there are still plenty of laughs to be had in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
The first glimpse in 14 years of Borat that we see has him working in labor camp. As a brief recaps shows up, Borat was at first hailed as a success for the triumphs of his major motion picture, but the world laughed at Kazakhstan and the man responsible was brutally punished by his countrymen. With the political ascension of the current occupant of the White House, the leadership of Kazakhstan sees an opportunity to rebuild their standing on the world stage and pull Borat from the labor camps to be their emissary. Borat must deliver the nation’s most famous television monkey to the current vice president, as a well-documented pit stop from the first film might further strain relations between the two nations. But the plan quickly hits a snag when Borat discovers that his daughter Tutar (Irina Nowak) has displaced the famed primate. Now the plan is to give Tutar as a gift to the vice president, though little of what Borat plans comes to being.
Upon his return to America, Borat finds that he can’t walk the streets without being recognized and harassed so he stocks up on an array of disguises to help him facilitate his mission. It’s a clever way to explain the various disguises Cohen must don in order to pull off the daring pranks in the film. Often dressed as a generic American, Borat takes Tutar to prepare for her great offering to the vice president. This leads to the film’s first truly jaw-dropping moment, a debutante ball where the two Kazakhs stun their attendees with a father-daughter dance the likes of which Americans have never seen.
But not every great setup pays off. Borat takes his daughter to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual convention for American conservatives. After going through the lobby dressed as Klansman, Borat disguises himself as the president and bursts in during a speech delivered by the vice president. While the stunt obviously made a ruckus, it doesn’t deliver the big punchline or stunning moment one would expect from Sacha Baron Cohen. As it turns out, the most damning thing to come out of the CPAC segment is the vice president calmly stating that the coronavirus outbreak in America is small and completely under control.
As they travel the country, Borat and Tutar have an array of odd encounters with average Americans. There’s the friendly baker willing to ice a cake with an anti-Semitic message. There’s an unfortunate stopover at a pro-life women’s clinic. Borat quarantines with a couple of right wing rednecks. Borat’s hosts casually spew QAnon nonsense about pedophilia and adrenochrome. This leads our Kazakh hero to a right wing anti-mask rally where Borat takes the stage and performs a grotesque song about injecting Barack Obama and Dr. Anthony Fauci with the “Wuhan Flu.” This song cheers on genocide and dismemberment, and the audience joins in and sings along. It’s not so much funny as it’s horrifying but also shows the brilliance of Sacha Baron Cohen, especially the way his affable immigrant Borat can get people to let their guard down and just follow his lead before revealing their own bigotry.
Sacha Baron Cohen has used the character of Borat to confront numerous anti-Semitic tropes, and he does that once again with this sequel. What makes Borat’s anti-Semitism stand out from those who use bigotry for ironic laughs is Cohen’s dedication to subverting his character’s own assumptions and firmly reassert the humanity of those being demeaned. Here Borat comes face-to-face with a Holocaust survivor. Borat also displays raging misogyny, which causes him to constantly demean his daughter. As they travel the country, she quickly begins to learn that much of the women’s health information that she’s been taught throughout her life has been a lie. It gives Borat Subsequent Moviefilm a surprisingly sweet father-daughter relationship, and Tutra’s reeducation pays off in a hilarious women’s conference that gives a whole new meaning to female empowerment.
There’s one scene that people will be talking about in this Borat sequel, and that’s the interview with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. In an interview with Tutra, Rudy flirts as he swigs on some scotch and spews absolutely insane conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus. But Rudy Giuliani saying something crazy isn’t that outrageous. You can find it on TV almost daily. What unfolds is just stunning, a disgraceful display from the politician once dubbed America’s Mayor. The coming weeks should be interesting as an already unhinged Giuliani has just become publicly embarrassed in a major way. Try your best to avoid spoilers for Rudy Giuliani’s appearance because it’s one hell of scene, and perhaps the best that Sacha Baron Cohen has ever done.
Directed by Jason Woliner, a veteran of numerous television comedies, does a great job in keeping the material focused and never straying far from its intended plot nor letting too long pass without a big laugh. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat is affable as ever despite his overt bigotry. The breakout star is Irina Novak as Tutar, who nails every big moment she has. Of course, it’s likely that Irina Novak is an alias and some internet sleuths have determined she’s Maria Bakalova, a Bulgarian actress. We’ll eventually find out more about the young actress who plays Tutar but it’s safe to say that she has a bright future ahead of her.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm will have the people talking once it lands on Amazon Prime on October 23rd. It has plenty of moments that will leave audiences stunned and rolling with laughter. In a lot of ways, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a lot like Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime series Who is America?. It’s social commentary is laser-focused on the issues of the day. Not every bit lands as intended, but the ones that do will stick in your head for days, if not longer. One thing I know for certain, Rudy Giuliani is about to have a long weekend.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
The triumphant return of Borat Sagdiyev in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm may not hit the same highs as the first film, but delivers enough comedic chaos as everyone’s favorite Kazakh journalist travels though America once again.