CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
Reviewed by Sam Hatch
AS THIS IS PART OF A YEAR-END DISCUSSION AS OPPOSED TO A TRADITIONAL REVIEW, THERE MAY BE SPOILERS PRESENT IN THE TEXT.
Sadly, I saw this film at an early preview, and was stuck with the onus of having to carry around the weight of its comedy, Atlas style, until the rest of the world had a chance to see it. It was hard as hell not to keep repeating every single skit to each newcomer wanting to know "Was it funny?"
Not only was it the funniest film of the year, it may very well go down as one of the funniest of all times. One of those remarkably subversive gems that makes you feel slightly guilty for laughing hard enough to hurt your ribs. It's probably no coincidence that the second funniest film of the year (Talladega Nights) also featured a memorable performance by Borat portrayer Sacha Baron Cohen (know mainly for his Da Ali G Show and a cameo in an old Madonna video).
Borat takes the anarchic documentarian spirit of the Jackass films, and infuses it into a farcical tale of a non-existant Kazakh journalist who comes to America to learn from our great nation. What follows is a spin on the classic Candid Camera formula (though without the final cathartic reveal) in which Borat's joyful ignorance irks some (a humorist who can't seem to teach him to use a 'not' joke; a feminist group shocked by his assertion that Kazakh scientists have proven that a woman's brain is roughly the size of a squirrel's), and provides fuel for others to showcase their own ignorance. Following the success of the film, many of the latter participants have since filed lawsuits claiming that they were duped into making asses of themselves.
Director Larry Charles has quietly confirmed that many of the releases were obtained under shady pretenses, but that doesn't negate the fact that the offended parties were all too willing to indulge in their shocking behavior in the first place. Only now do they regret the fact that they were fooled into sharing their true sides with the rest of America. Egg-faced participants include a group of traditional white folks (on Secession Way nonetheless!) who are forced to endure Borat's graceless tablemanners (he brings his poop back to the table with him following a bathroom excursion) and the sudden arrival of an African-American prostitute; a stereotypical group of ignorant, drunken frat kids, and the homophobic old man at a rodeo whose physical impression of gays is downright bizarre.
Ultimately, the point of the film is for Borat to work his way out West (but not on an airplane, in case the Jews decide to stage another 9/11 attack) in order to meet Pamela Anderson and make her his wife. Luckily, his bullish wife back in Kazakhstan has recently died (High Five!!) and cannot make good on her promise to 'snap his kook off' if he sleeps with someone else on the journey. Borat's obsession with Pah-Mell-Ah and her Va-Gin eventually disrupts his relationship with his producer/only friend, the grotesquely troll-like Azamat (Ken Davitian). This leads to the tour de force moment in which a naked wrestling match (My mustache smells like testes!) leads to a very Jackassian chase scene in which both men streak their way through a conference in their hotel. Borat adds further hilarity by chasing his friend while holding aloft a gigantic, wobbly dildo crowned by a tiny mold of a human fist.Borat is the film that the Jerky Boys should have made years ago, and like that team of obnoxious phone pranksters, Cohen knows how to keep reeling his subjects in for more punishment even when his shtick has reached the point of absurdity. Every time I thought I couldn't laugh anymore, something else would crop up that would just slay me. The ultimate brilliance of Borat is that it works on whatever level you approach it from. You can view it as a retro-ish spoof on old propaganda films, you can view it as a sociological expose of secret American thinking, or you can view it as a piss-your-pants-funny comedy about two idiots driving around in an ice cream truck with a grizzly bear. Ali G Indahouse was good, but I was never prepared for this comedic monolith.