‘Borat’ was what 2020 needed

Nolan Fullington, Opinion Writer

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is technically an Amazon Prime original film. Under the definition of streaming, “original” also falls under the clause of distribution if a platform doesn’t produce the film, but simply distributes an independent feature. Well, it’s now a *blank* “original” film. Hence why Netflix has so much “original” programming.

This sequel marks the heavenly return of Sacha Baron Cohen’s most famous character, Borat, in this political romp about Borat returning to America to regain his journalistic reputation in Kazakhstan by gifting a pornographic monkey to Mike Pence. However, a certain turn of events leads Borat having to now gift Pence with his fifteen year-old daughter for marriage.

This film takes a precise aim at American politics today, exposing what Cohen described as genuine behavior when one’s guard is down.

Quite recently actually, I rewatched the first “Borat” and it still holds up almost fifteen years later. It’s a brilliant mockumentary that showcases American culture in this uncut fashion.

After which I said, “Now more than ever, we need Borat again.” Not even two days later, Sacha Baron Cohen announced that “Borat 2” was shot, edited and would be on Amazon in a month. It immediately became my most-anticipated film of the year, seeing that nothing else is coming out this year anyway.

The trailers were quite underwhelming, but let me assure you, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” lives up to its former.

However, the issue here resides with sequels in general in that there is now this established bar of expectation. The first “Borat” was great because you didn’t know who this was so the idea of this being a real documentary added a layer to the film’s comedic value.

It is reminiscent of an average moviegoer seeing “Zelig,” but not telling them it’s a Woody Allen film.

This sequel does suffer from high expectations because you are familiar with the character and your expectations are substantially higher. Given those circumstances, it’s miraculous how this film remains funny, but also provides a genuine narrative, more so than the first film.

Once again, it’s difficult to review a comedy without saying “this was funny and that wasn’t,” but “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” had lots of laughs, but plenty of missed ones as well. However, due to the sheer amount of comedic set-pieces, it has to be mathematically impossible not to laugh.

But the best moments were of course involving real people. There are a number of scenes that felt manufactured, but there are still those beautiful scenes where Cohen exposes this raw under-leaf of American culture and some parts were truly shocking.

However, the most appalling and disturbing is a scene with Rudy Giuliani, one that has the nation’s foundation shivering, which I won’t get into, but it felt like the real life equivalent of the car scene in “Eighth Grade.”

Now here’s what makes dumb humor in “Borat” work and not “Hubie Halloween,” because I’m sure many may cite my hypocriticism when it comes to perceived “dumb humor” in films.

In “Borat,” there is an actual narrative that has structure here; minus all of the jokes, the film still has a functioning narrative. It also involves real people, which grounds the comedy — as opposed to “Hubie Halloween,” where every character is wacky and “hilarious.”

You need that contrast and Cohen playing his eccentric characters is always a sharp contrast to the average people around him.

One of the many plot twists and surprises is that there is actually a story here. There is character and structure to this film’s comedic set-pieces in the form of a father/daughter story. I was unsure of the daughter character for the first half of the film, but her character did grow on me as she had many great scenes of her own without the assistance of Sacha Baron Cohen.

One of the downsides of this film is that Borat is a comedy icon. When the first “Borat” came out, he was everywhere. So in this sequel, Borat can’t go around in his usual grey suit, so he wears disguises.

So it often doesn’t feel like “Borat” as much as Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Who Is America” series.

Along with politics, the film satirizes COVID-19, which leads to some twisty revelations. There are jabs at Facebook, phones and even references to the first film like the scene of Borat squatting outside Trump Tower in the last film, which ended up foreshadowing the sequel.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is certainly not as good as the former, but it lives up to its name and the hype. Out of all of the gibbering nonsense surrounding “Tenet” regarding, “This is the movie we need right now,” this second “Borat” film feels more like the film we need right now, especially before an election. You can sign up for a free trial on Amazon Prime to watch the film for free.