Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Luenell
Directed by: Larry Charles
Here’s the thing: I’ve never watched Da Ali G Show, so I’d never been exposed to the Borat character until promotion for this movie started. I didn’t go see it as a fan, instead, I thought the trailer looked funny, and decided it would be fun.
For those who don’t know, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan follows Cohen’s Borat character from his native Kazakhstan to America, to make a documentary about American culture. Throughout the movie, Borat interacts with unknowing and unsuspecting extras who think they’re being filmed for a documentary, then have to deal with the outrageous things the ignorant Borat says and does. It’s crude, disgusting, offensive, insensitive, sexist, and bigoted.
Oh yeah, and its freaking hilarious! Which makes the other stuff not matter. From the movie’s opening scene, I was in stitches, laughing full throated belly laughs at the outrageous things coming out of Borat’s mouth. And the laughs continued steadily throughout the movie’s 84 minute running time. Cohen’s humour doesn’t actually poke fun at the victims of Borat’s comments, be they women, Jews (he is Jewish himself), gypsies, homosexuals, or the handicapped. Rather, he makes fun of the stereotypes people still hold, showing how utterly ridiculous you look if you hold similar beliefs. To reinforce this, he catches regular people echoing his views… only they’re not in character.
You won’t believe the shit that comes out of Borat’s mouth, no matter how prepared you thought you were going into the movie. It was the lewd humour that I was hoping for when I watched The Aristocrats, the kind where I had to bury my face into my wife’s shoulder or my own hands at times because it was so awkward… and so awkwardly funny.
As ridiculous as Borat is, Cohen made a fantastic choice in one scene to hold his antics back when he met up with a revivalist church. Borat didn’t need to point out the ridiculousness of the scene, the extras did it for him. It was unusual for him to play the straight man, but he did for the briefest of moments, and it was perfect.
Ultimately, it’s not a perfect film. It certainly won’t win any technical awards (or, really any awards other than MTV Movie Awards), but the amateurish look at times complements the mockumentary style of the film. The schtick does drag a little bit near the end of the movie, but picks up for some scenes and ends before the character wears out his welcome. I don’t foresee it as a movie with a lot of replayability, but it doesn’t need to be.
Instead, it’s exactly what it should be: a freaking hilarious movie that provides a fun evening out. If you don’t think Borat is the kind of movie for you, you’re probably right. It certainly isn’t a movie for everyone. But if you did think you’d like to see it, then you definitely should. You’ll more than get your time and money’s worth.