Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

by | Mar 15, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Luenell Campbell
Directed by Larry Charles
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: English, 5.1 Dolby Surround; Spanish, Dolby Surround; French, Dolby Surround; Russian, Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Global PR Tour, Music Infomercial
Length: 84 minutes
Rating: ****

“Borat” is a curious blend of movie, documentary, and mockumentary that examines the cultures and foibles of the people of the United States through the eyes of a fictitious TV reporter from Kazakhstan, named Borat Sagdiyev. Parts of the film are scripted, some are staged, and some are spontaneously discovered. In the story, Borat, along with his producer Azamat Bagatov, is sent to the United States to learn about our culture and report back to the Kazakh people by filming a documentary. Borat has adventures, interviews various people and groups, and travels across the country in search of his true love, Pamela Anderson, the former star of “Baywatch”  who he discovered watching TV. At least, that’s the plot of the movie.

Borat is actually a character played by a British comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen, known for playing characters that interact with “real” people and who then proceeds to encourage and expose those people’s own bigotries, ignorance, and insecurities with unusually comedic results. The character of Borat is a naïve, even perversely innocent, and inquisitive provocateur who proves this basic fact: if you politely listen and gently enable another person to speak, you just never know what they are going to say. Whether it is redneck cowboys at a rodeo, Southern sophisticates at a supper club, or inebriated frat boys in an RV, Borat is able to bring out the worst in them all. He also delights in making outrageous statements of his own just to see how people react, like when he tells a group of feminists that women’s brains are the size of squirrel brains. Kazakhstan suffers greatly from his abuse, making it seem filled with rapists and anti-Semites, and where cars don’t run, they are pulled by horses. In the same way, America comes off looking pretty bad, seemingly filled with ignorant bigots who want to bring back slavery or be free to lynch gay people. Like a lot of comedy, “Borat” is fueled by anger.

Balancing the bleak harshness of what he exposes are his interactions with his producer, Azamat Bagatov, played by veteran actor Ken Davitian. Some of the funniest scenes are between these two, like the nude wrestling match that starts in their hotel room and progresses across the lobby and into a convention dinner, where they end up on stage before they are hauled away. There is also a sweetness to Borat’s mid-movie farewell scene with the prostitute Luenell, played by actress Luenell Campbell. The reactions of the “real” people exposed to his actions and comments are equally hilarious and enlightening, like the etiquette coach who must deal with how to politely tell Borat that it might not be proper to share naked photos of his favorite teenage son’s genitals with other people at a dinner. It’s a marvel that she is able to maintain her composure so successfully. “Borat” is a film that is slightly uneven, sometimes struggling to find a plot in the midst of the make-believe and the reality, but it provides more laughs than most, if not all, straight ahead comedies. It’s not for the easily offended, but there’s no doubt that you will laugh. [Audiences in Israel are laughing the loudest because when Borat and his producer are supposedly talking to each other in Kazakhstanise, they are actually speaking Yiddish…Ed.]

– Hermon Joyner

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