BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
***** (out of 5)
November 3, 2006
Sacha Baron Cohen as BORAT SAGDIYEV
Ken Davitian as AZAMAT BAGATOV
Luenell as LUENELL
Pamela Anderson as HERSELF
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Larry Charles
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
When it comes to a movie like “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” you really need to be prepared for what you’re getting yourself into. If you don’t know what to expect, you run the risk of being horribly offended… or maybe dying of laughter.
I never watched “Da Ali G Show,” so before seeing this film I had never seen anything that involved the character of Borat. I did know that I liked Sacha Baron Cohen from his roles in films like “Madagascar” and “Talladega Nights.” Fortunately, I don’t offend easily, and by the end of the movie, I found myself declaring Cohen to be one of the funniest and most clever men on the planet.
“Borat” follows a Kazakhstani television personality from his backwards country to the United States. He is overseas to learn more about American culture, but a overzealous (and particularly creepy) infatuation with Pamela Anderson leads him on a cross-country trek to find her and make her his bride.
Along the way, Borat interviews a wide variety of people, from everyday citizens to noted political figures. Refusing to give into any amount of decorum, Borat leaves a wake of offended citizens and celebrities. Nothing is off-limits to this guy, yet he never seems to get in trouble. Maybe it’s because his victims are all-too-quick to forgive someone they see as backwards. Maybe it’s because Americans are so used to political correctness that they just don’t know how to react when someone is so blatantly politically incorrect.
It is this attack on political correctness that makes the film so hilarious. Someone like myself is so tired of people being offended by the littlest thing that a seemingly crazy man in a dirty, gray suit who says the most outrageous things is a welcomed relief.
My personal favorite scenes comes early in the film when Borat interviews leaders of a feminist organization in New York. The interview plods along until Borat asks if it bothers them that women have smaller brains than men. He is so unapologetic in his delivery that I couldn’t stop laughing.
Some will be offended by this film, especially if they do not get the jokes. There have already been accusations of anti-Semitism, but these critics forget that Cohen himself is Jewish. That’s not to say that only people within their own social or ethnic group are allowed to make harsh fun of themselves, but rather people should search deeper for the root of the humor. Cohen is not promoting anti-Semitism. Rather, he’s unveiling how some of us seem to view anti-Semites, as backwards racists from another country.
The reality is that we should be offended to some degree by what we see in this movie. It helps to remind us that we are better than that. Think of “Borat” as this generation’s Archie Bunker. Like that classic television character, Borat is everything we don’t want to be, yet somehow we love the guy. It should make us at least a bit uncomfortable.
Part of the strength of a film like “Borat” is Cohen’s immersion into the character, which involves a kind of commitment rarely seen in Hollywood. By allowing his own ego to disappear, he lets the ultimate comedy of the moment emerge. By committing so fully to the part does Cohen allow himself to get away with insulting everyone he meets.
Some will characterize this film as a mockumentary, but it twists that genre on its ear and offers something different from the standard set by Christopher Guest and company since “Waiting for Guffman.” Rather than being a mockumentary, “Borat” is a social experiment, putting us under the microscope. Cohen’s commitment allows him to move through life as Borat in order to get honest, real reactions from his test subjects. And at times, you’ll be terrified (and embarrassingly amused) at what you’ll see.
Yes, the film has cheesed off the Kazakhstani government to no end, but this movie is genius in forcing ourselves to look at our own misconceptions, stereotypes and prejudices. If you can get the joke, which lies about three layers deep within the movie’s humor, you should love the film. It’s easily the funniest movie of the year.