[su_dropcap size=”5″]T[/su_dropcap]he old saying goes that if you can’t spot the sucker within thirty minutes at a poker table, then you are the sucker. And there you have the secret of the Borat character, hidden in plain sight. As a blathering foreigner who cheerfully spouts outmoded gibberish, Borat generates superficial laughs fairly easily. But then, something brilliant happens: Sacha Baron Cohen, his creator and performer, quietly turns his comedic artillery on the audience themselves. Cohen’s gangly ignoramus becomes a barometer for the cultural rise of our own insular ignorance. Borat finds plenty of Americans who are simpatico to his plans to chuck women in cages and gypsies in gas chambers. His ugliness serves as a mirror to our own. We are the suckers.
This sequel finds our titular nincompoop in dire straights. It’s been fourteen years since the first film became a surprise hit, and Borat is now a pariah in his beloved Kazakhstan. In retaliation for his unflattering depiction of their lifestyle, the Kazakh government sentences Borat to a lifetime of busting rocks in a gulag.
Good fortune returns when Donald Trump accedes to the White House. Loud, lecherous, and cruel, Trump represents everything the Kazakhs could ever want in a world leader. They bust Borat out of the pokey and offer him a deal: If he’ll travel back to the States and offer a gift to the Administration, all will be forgiven. (One caveat is that the tribute is for Mike Pence. As he makes his wife walk behind him and can’t trust himself to be alone with any other woman, the Kazakhs assume Pence must be the world’s preeminent hound dog.)
The rest of the movie pretty much writes itself: Borat takes the slow boat to Galveston, with his shambling fifteen-year-old daughter (Maria Bakalova) secretly stowed aboard. When the initial tribute of a porn monkey (you read that right) falls through, Borat is left scrambling for a fall-back plan. Then it hits him: He’ll present his daughter as a child bride! Of course!
Along this travelogue, Borat mines humor from a quarry of American nutballs, with varying degrees of success. A lengthy bit at a debutante ball falls so flat it almost stalls the entire movie. But then, like any great comedian, Cohen redeems himself with a masterful con job on a couple of alt-right yokels. (Borat actually moves in with these two goobers for a short stay, making this part of the film feel like a bizarro sitcom.) The fact that Cohen never breaks character for this entire sequence is absolutely astonishing.
The centerpiece of the whole film is, of course, the now-infamous interview with Rudy Giuliani. I won’t spoil anything by dissecting it here, but I will say it probably represents a low point for America’s Mayor and a high point for Cohen’s all-world trolling ability. To the Giuliani defenders who say that this was set up to disgrace him, I would ask: What’s more disturbing, that Cohen cobbles together a Chris Hansen/Dateline obstacle course, or that Giuliani hops through it like a Westminster Beagle? And yes, the interview was undoubtedly edited to give it more oomph, but that’s true of pretty much everything you see everywhere. The ickiest part of this whole bit occurs with only one camera recording an unbroken take. I suspect this sequence doesn’t so much show Giuliani in a negative light as just a normal, everyday light. In either case, you may need a shower after watching it.
More than the first film, political proclivities will factor into your enjoyment of this Borat. For movie number two, Cohen swaps out a sledgehammer for a scalpel, slicing directly into the subculture of red MAGA hats and fluttering rebel flags. (At one point, Borat finagles his way onstage at an anti-mask rally and leads the crowd in a song that details chopping up journalists and putting scientists in ovens. The crowd whips into such a frenzy that one enrapt man finally throws up a Nazi salute.) Trump supporters will likely respond to this film–which hones in on the ugliest segment of his base–with a range of emotions, from deep discomfort to outright hostility. Otherwise, all will depend on your tolerance for ballsy satire and gross-out humor. (I remember more than a few people walking out of the first Borat.)
I’ll go ahead and underline the above point: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is NOT for the squeamish. Its humor is extremely graphic and scorchingly profane. Anybody who proceeds from this point, consider yourself warned.
For all the hype it will generate–the Giuliani scene has already sparked memes on memes–this Borat isn’t quite up to the first one. The newness has had fourteen years to wear off, and a few of the jokes don’t quite land. With that said, Cohen slips back into the role like a neon green mankini. His improvisational abilities are a spectacle to behold. Bakalova plays off of Cohen with incredible skill, but she also holds her own during solo ventures. If you enjoyed Borat’s antics in the first film, you’ll probably find this one verry niiiice as well. Just don’t forget who the sucker is at the poker table.
96 min. R.