Movie Review | Borat
Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan...
Movie summary: Kazakh TV talking head Borat is dispatched to the United States to report on the greatest country in the world. With a documentary crew in tow, Borat becomes more interested in locating and marrying Pamela Anderson. (IMDb)
I think I might have missed out by only watching Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (which I'm just going to call Borat for the rest of this review) for the first time for this review, as it certainly wasn't the revelatory comedy experience many people claimed it to be and makes me nervous about the sequel.
Part of it is that the USA has basically gone insane as a country over the last four years, so some of what would've been the more extreme moments in 2006 don't really stand out today. It's almost like America took Borat as a challenge to see how terrible it could get in response and succeeded far too well in doing so.
Don't get me wrong, I was still amazed at the rodeo owner telling Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) to shave his moustache so he wouldn't look like a terrorist, or that he wanted to hang homosexuals. Then there's the white frat guys on a road trip openly confessing to wanting slavery back and complaining that minorities have too much power.
It's still quite a shock to hear people openly admit to those things on camera - and there's a few moments more like that too - although just as funny for Cohen to mock them without realising they're even being mocked. It's quite the skill to draw these kinds of admissions from people and he certainly does it extremely well.
The problem is that those moments are the standouts now, with the majority of the rest of the movie filled with 'story' scenes about Borat initially visiting America to make a documentary before deciding he wants to travel to California and find Pamela Anderson to marry her, and various situations which feel far too forced to be too funny.
And it's that latter point that hampers Borat the most for me - Cohen goes so far to provoke a reaction at times that, while the results may still cause a smile, they feel far too manufactured to be genuinely entertaining. A lot of these scenes result more in cringe comedy and awkwardness rather than anything that'll make you laugh.
It's actually one of the story scenes, where Borat and his producer, Azamat (Ken Davitian) get into a fight that made me laugh the most, starting in their hotel room, down an elevator and into the lobby, before bursting into a conference room where a large dinner event is taking place. I should point out that they are completely naked for the entirety of this sequence and the reactions of the people who see them are just fantastic.
I think the ludicrous nature of present-day America has dulled whatever edge Borat may have had for audiences up until Donald Trump won the 2016 election and making the deplorables seen here part of mainstream US society. It's still a very, very funny movie at certain points, but reality has dated it alarmingly quickly.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan might have been funnier when first released, but real-life America today is far insane than can genuinely be parodied. While still laugh out loud funny now, too many situations felt forced and took away from the humour at times.