Sacha Baron Cohen is back doing what he does best: holding the mirror up to nature. The nature in question, of course: modern-day America.
Will it turn out that the vaccine we all needed this year was Kazakhstan’s fourth rated journalist and his daughter running amok across the pond? Not really.
The film is directed by Jason Woliner and, for better or for worse, boasts a team of ten writers. Most of the creatives have backgrounds in TV and comedy specials, which probably explains the flippant, episodic nature of the film that is far from anything cinematic.
Borat has been tasked with a mission to deliver Johnny the Monkey, Kazakhstan’s top film director (bear with me) as a gift to Vice President Mike Pence. In a dramatic turn of events, Borat is left with his estranged daughter, Tutar, played by Bulgarian newcomer, Maria Bakalova.
Together, the two get caught up in a woeful number of shenanigans including a pervy plastic surgeon, conspiracy theorists, and Donald Trump’s personal attorney.
There is no denying Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2007 Borat was a cultural firestorm. The film garnered mass critical praise, even earning Cohen a Golden Globe and an Oscar nom. It was a wholly unique and phenomenally funny flick. Thankfully, it’s sequel follows in a similar path, but perhaps with some deviations here and there.
Undoubtedly, when Bakalova and Cohen are out in the field, the film is a knockout. The ‘how on Earth did they film that’ moments are thankfully in abundance and that toe-curling awkwardness created speaks volumes to the skills of the two performers.
While it follows a similar formula, there have certainly been a few upgrades from fourteen years ago. For instance, anti-Semitic Borat is left distraught after reading on Facebook that the Holocaust did not happen, riffing on the Fake News phenomenon.
While these updates do pose an interesting social comparison, I feel that Cohen only scratches the surface.
The film seems to lose its way in its ‘downtime’ scenes between Borat and Tutar. Here, father and daughter mostly bicker about dated gender politics while rushing through needless exposition before heading off to a new location.
These scenes bring the film’s zany energy considerably down, leaving extra legwork for the new episode to struggle with.
Moreover, the urgency of the political message, while of course relevant, begs one to think how well the film will stand with the test of time. There is a huge sense of dramatic irony when Mike Pence at a convention held in February, proudly boasts the US only has 15 cases and they are handling it ‘very well’.
Perhaps in Cohen’s ambition to create a film for now and only now, he has sacrificed a better product for an urgent message.
While the first Borat offers a more general view of American hypocrisy and all its peculiarities, its successor, however, primarily focuses on bashing the current POTUS and his supporters.
Times have undeniably changed, but after four years of comedians joking about nothing else, the amount of potential satire is slim pickings.
Ultimately, the film’s over-reliance on relevancy may be its downfall.
But at least it will go down laughing.
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm was released on Amazon Prime on the 23rd of October.