The original Borat movie launched a thousand catchphrases, “Very niceee”, “Not!”, “My wife”, but the reason it sticks is biting satire in a movie about a lost guy trying to find love with eye popping pranks and a instantly iconic character. Sacha Baron Cohen pulls it off again in the 14 years later sequel Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. While the first film examined the War on Terror era, Subsequent Moviefilm dives headfirst in the Donald Trump and COVID-19 pandemic for more shocking satire. This movie also has a core emotional story where Borat himself grows up. Not by much but a tad.
Borat (Cohen) was sent to the gulag after his first movie embarrassed the nation of Kazakhstan but now he is sent to America to curry favour with the US’s newest leader, President Trump. Borat is to deliver a very important monkey but his daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova), has shipped herself to America instead. Things spiral out of control when he tries to give Tutar to Vice President Pence as Borat’s boss in Kazakhstan gets exceptionally angrier when Borat cannot complete his mission. Even worse, Tutar is starting to learn about being an independent American woman and all of the notions she learned in her homeland may be wrong.
The character of Borat has deeply penetrated popular culture, he started on Da Ali G Show before the first movie came out, and 14 years later he is still instantly recognizable. This presents a bit of a problem for Cohen as the anonymity of the character was what made people say such crazy things. His TV series from a few years ago, This Is America, showed that Cohen still is able to make up crazy improvisational characters, but Borat remains the gold standard. It’s an actual plot point in Subsequent Moviefilm that Borat needs to put himself in disguises, although it’s basically just Borat in a flimsy fake beard and fat suit but that’s part of the gag. There’re only a few pieces where Borat is in a disguise, most of the time he’s Borat.
There is one moment where Borat dresses up as a country singer and sings at an alt-right rally with a very shocking, very horrible yet incredibly catchy song so naturally the crowd loves it. The crux of the interview scenes is when Borat lets people reveal their horrible impulses with some prodding. Borat himself comes across as more clueless and just trying to please than being genuinely nasty. It is a neat trick that he remains likable, probably because he is just being friendly, if completely dim.
Borat gets a sidekick to go along with and Bakalova as Tutar is as great at improvisational shocks as Cohen. In the first film, Borat had his producer Azamat who was less a partner than more someone to bounce exposition off of and stage shocking scenes with. Azamat isn’t in Subsequent Moviefilm although there is a great throwaway gag as to his current whereabouts. Instead, Borat gets to meet the daughter he never knew he had. She starts off living in a barn and dreaming of being marrying off to a powerful man like her heroine Princess Melina did, complete with hilarious scenes of Tutar watching a Cinderella style animated fairy tale about Melina meeting Donald Trump. She has a book of Kazakhstan fables and rules that she constantly refers to which are amusingly backwards.
Oddly, her growing into her own person and Borat learning to look at her as something aside from livestock is heartwarming in a weird way. She actually has a full character arc, starting with being enamoured of being in a cage to eventually doing something for herself, climaxing in a scene where she interviews Trump advocate Rudy Giuliani. Things get disturbing real quick and while the Giuliani scene seems like the movie’s climax, the true ending is a final scene that flips the major events 2020 on its head in a hysterically dark way.
There’re also a lot of just really funny nonsense peppered throughout the film along with biting interview bits. The only way that Borat can communicate with his homeland is via fax machine so he sends some extremely slow messages with a very patient copy store operator. There are especially dark but funny scenes like when Borat and Tutar end up at an anti-abortion clinic even or how Tutar thinks cage shopping is glamourous. Putting Borat and Tutar with unsuspecting dupes has some great results, Tutar talks to a gathering of Republican women that is both crude and her also learning that she be more than what she was told is possible, or when Borat meets some Q-Anon loving right wing conspiracy theory guys. The pacing is really quick, cutting down to the funny stuff and the moving along swiftly.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a perfect companion piece to the first film and a good commentary on the general craziness of 2020. Borat himself is still a hilarious character and gets a solid partner to deep dive into the absurd. Like the man himself says, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is great success.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Director: Jason Woliner
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova and Tom Hanks