“Borat Subsequent Moviefim,” 2020, directed by Jason Woliner — 3.5/5 Stars
The first “Borat” was shocking and over-the-top. Sacha Baron Cohen’s unscripted, part-real, part-mockumentary film left audiences slack-jawed, stunned and hungry for more. Despite the attention it got, the movie’s sheer vulgarity may have skewed its intended message of mocking American stupidity and xenophobia. Those unfamiliar with “Borat” may think of the original film as something on par with “South Park” or “Family Guy” — raunchy humor with no real purpose, only as an attempt to get a reaction out of audiences. The real beauty of 2006’s “Borat,” though, was that the butt of the joke was never the goofy Kazakhstani journalist, but the racist, sexist, antisemitic fools who he interviewed. “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” doesn’t quite have that same shock value, but it keeps the same spirit of mocking American traditionalism and intolerance, something that feels much-needed after four years in the age of Trump. Be warned, spoilers up ahead.
Rather than focusing on the relationship between Borat and his producer Azamat, who was unfortunately turned into a chair by the fictional Kazakhstani government, the sequel introduces us to Borat’s daughter, Tutar. Borat’s plan to make up for humiliating the nation of Kazakhstan with his first film is to deliver Tutar as a gift to Vice President Mike Pence. As a practice run, the two attend a debutante ball in Texas, where they perform their traditional “fertility dance,” which involved Tutar showing the ball attendees the menstrual blood covering her legs and dress as she danced. This scene feels the most like the original “Borat,” hilariously cringe-worthy and pushing the envelope on disgusting awkwardness.
The film really starts to ramp up when Baron Cohen walks into the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) wearing a Klan robe as something to “blend in.” When he’s escorted out of CPAC by security after offering his daughter to Pence, Borat decides to reassess. He decides to instead offer his daughter to Rudy Giuliani, leading us to the now-infamous scene where Giuliani reaches into his pants while sitting in a hotel room with Tutar, only to be interrupted by Borat in a leotard and wig. Hilarious and horrifying, this is probably the film’s peak.
While it’s fun to point and laugh at these public figures, the movie also features a fair amount of heart to give us a break from the overwhelming idiocy. This earnestness doesn’t come from Borat, but from the people he torments with his antics. When he walks into a synagogue wearing a horrendously offensive costume of a Jewish person, two older women take the opportunity to educate him about acceptance and their experience in the Holocaust. When Tutar stays with a babysitter while Borat runs errands, the babysitter tries to teach her about her self-worth and agency.
What’s particularly impressive about this sequel’s production is the team’s ability to rework the script around the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., which didn’t reach its height until well after shooting had begun. The virus is cleverly woven into the story, and it’s hard to tell that it was a last-minute change to account for current events.
The last thing worth mentioning is Maria Bakalova’s incredible performance. Baron Cohen is hard to match in his insane gutsiness while pulling his stunts, but she does so fantastically, especially in potentially dangerous situations like the hotel room with Giuliani.
Overall, “Borat Subsequent Moviefim” isn’t as good as the first and won’t have audiences quite as in awe, but it’s still well-worth watching, even if just to see Rudy Giuliani act like a creepy, disgusting buffoon.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” starring Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova, can be watched right now with an Amazon Prime subscription.