Review Date: October 30, 2006
Director: Larry Charles
Writer: Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer
Producers: Jay Roach, Dan Mazer
Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat
Pamela Anderson as Pamela
An extremely funny yet offensive movie that will likely have certain parties up in arms, including actual Kazakhstanis (who are apparently fighting against the release of the movie), Jewish people, women and pretty much anyone else who’s offended by male nudity, inappropriate sexual insinuations and behavior, and the making fun of other cultures. Personally, I thought much of it was very humorous, including a bunch of laugh-out loud funny scenes, but at the same time, I didn’t think that it worked entirely as a “movie”. For anyone who doesn’t know the background of the lead character in this film, played by actor Sasha Baron Cohen (he’s Jewish in real-life, by the way), he’s an ongoing character on his TV show, along with his more popular alter-persona, Ali G. Part of Borat’s appeal is that he’s so ignorant of American culture, that he can say and do the most outrageous things in front of actual people (who aren’t “in on the joke”) and get away with it because most Americans are polite and try to teach him about his wrongdoings, rather than tell him off for being an asshole, idiot or racist. Well, not everyone, of course…some people do actually get upset and that’s what makes for some of the comedy in this film. The problem with this concept is that it’s very funny as a 5-minute skit on his TV show (or a series of sketches), as it doesn’t expect us to buy into his character throughout a manufactured plotline, but in this film, he’s combining a “fake story” about Borat traveling across America with actual undercover footage of him acting dumb with real people.
The latter stuff is hilarious, as per his show, but then we’re left with Borat and his side-kick “acting” by themselves and that just felt…“off”. I’m not sure if this will bother others, but I simply couldn’t get past it, especially since a few other characters were also “acting”, so it wasn’t fun to sit through those scenes since they kept me wondering about what was real and what wasn’t. For example, at some point, the dumb-dumb duo accidentally stay at a bed & breakfast place with a nice Jewish couple as the home-owners. They act all freaked out in front of the couple (because they’re anti-Semites), but were the Jewish couple in on it? Not sure. They see the camera and everything, don’t they? That sort of stuff took me “out of the movie” every now and again, but like I said before, the obvious “real” footage with regular Americans was so over-the-top, nasty and funny, that I couldn’t help but laugh real hard whenever that stuff came rolling around again. Also, one “acting” scene between the two men was about as funny a thing as I’ve seen on the big screen this year, as they literally got naked and rolled around in bed together, fighting about something or another. Borat’s buddy, who must be over 350 pounds rolls onto Borat’s face, and at some point, we see his balls resting on Cohen’s chin. The audience was in tears throughout this entire sequence and I was right there with them. The problem is that the entire scenario is so fucked up that I would be surprised if it stuck around for the Americanized version of this film.
In the end, I think your enjoyment of this movie will depend on your own tolerance of this sort of stuff, and whether or not you already know and enjoy the character of Borat in the first place. Also, it’s something to watch….on weed!!! As for the anti-Semitic stuff, I’ll be interested to see if the Jewish groups will be “up in arms” about this movie, since some of it is really, really bad – and even though the writer/actor is Jewish himself, that might not make a difference.