Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 36 minutes, Director – Jason Woliner
Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) returns to America in the hope of supporting the now struggling nation of Kazakhstan, after the impact of his first film, through a gift to Vice President Mike Pence.
Back in 2006 Borat was one of the most outrageous characters the world had ever seen. Causing further waves across the world than he already had in his days on Da Ali G Show. And yet his misogynistic, anti-Semitic, sometimes racist, homophobic and all-out offensive views have no been claimed, by some, to be rather mild compared to what we see in the world today. And this is something that comes across as Sacha Baron Cohen’s iconic moustachioed Kazakh reporter ventures back into the land of the free, minus former travel companion Azamat Bagatov.
After the impact of his first film Kazakhstan has become a laughing stock. Borat is jailed, ridiculed and hated for what he has done. However, when America’s leadership changes to “Mcdonald Trump” the country is eager to form a bond with the States powerful leader, who they believe they share a number of views with. Borat is sent out into the world, travelling to America to gift Vice President with Johnny The Monkey; Kazakhstan’s Minister of Culture, and a highly successful ape porn star. Unfortunately after a series of events the gift changes from a chimpanzee to Borat’s far more dishevelled daughter Tutar (a scene-stealing Maria Bakalova); after a major make-over, of course.
One notable element of this sequel is the fact that it clearly has a much larger narrative in place. The relationship between Baron Cohen and Bakalova’s characters is key, as Borat’s belief in traditional Kazakhstani rules such as women not being allowed to drive, and not being able to learn or else strings in their brain will snap, conflicts with Tutar discovering feminism, freedom and her own identity. There are still a fair deal of interviews and run-ins with various figures – although not quite with the spark that the original film had, the joke of a stranger in a foreign land isn’t quite present in this place, more just someone with different views and background – to be found but not always a feeling like the first film. Mostly due to such moments seemingly relying on pushing the narrative on rather than the reaction of those involved.
In one key scene we see Baron Cohen’s character don one of a number of disguises throughout the film – preventing him from being chased and recognised with shots of “very nice!”, “great success!” and, of course, “my wife!”, all of which are mentioned in the film – lead a big sing-a-long at a pro-Trump anti-virus rally. The lyrics being sung repeated by the crowd amongst whoops and cheers brings back the flavour that many know from Borat, dwelling on and relishing the responses of the people who were, at the time of the first film, a seeming minority. It’s these moments that work the best and truly bring in the chuckles. There are one or two laugh out loud moments throughout the film, although not really at the shock factor of the film, rather some of the more ‘out there’ lines of dialogue and scenarios; the snappier, punchier moments of quick jokes and jabs and then onto the next thing. There are a handful of chuckles and exhales of amusement to be found but somehow the comedy gets lost in the narrative driven tone of the film, and perhaps the election and pandemic themed currency of the film that leads it to feel even more satirical and focused on various different points.
Borat is very much the same, and his daughter is a nice addition – avoiding being irritating and on a number of occasions being the true highlight of the film. Perhaps he just seems to blend in a bit more with everything we see in the world now, or we’re just not sure what to make of someone who’s already discovered the world he’s walking around in. The film certainly has it’s moments during the quicker, less-narrative driven moments where the film seems to be allowed to be itself, focusing on people rather than plot. There are some laughs throughout, and not all at the more outrageous moments, but the more organised focus of the film seems to prevent it from being a great success.
Borat is very much back as he once was, and Maria Bakalova very much steals the show as his daughter. While there are still some laughs based around the reactions of the unknowing participants something seems to be lost about the film within its more narrative driven focus.