Borat (2006) Review

Borat (2006) Review
Borat (2006) Review 1
Borat (2006)
Director(s): Larry Charles
Actor(s): Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Luenell
Film Genre(s): Comedy
Running Time: 84 min
CGM Editors Choice
| November 3, 2006

I never got into The Ali G Show, the HBO program that launched comedian Sasha Baron Cohen to stardom with his trifecta of offensive characters: Ali G, Borat, and Bruno. Of course I have a friend who absolutely raved about the show and I saw a few segments like Ali G’s hilarious Andy Rooney interview, but my non-fan status was a matter of logistics: there are only so many hours you can spend in front of the tube. I was aware of the show’s popularity and if you weren’t before, then last weekend’s box office numbers in spite of the movie’s opening on just 800 screens should be all the proof you need that Cohen is a hot commodity.

But Borat is not without its controversy. The character, a TV journalist from Kazakhstan, is racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic while being rude, uncouth, and generally ignorant. In this movie, Borat and noted Kazakh producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitianare) are sent by their government to learn about America and how Kazakhstan can adapt those lessons to “make benefit” for the country. The trip may start out that way, but after watching a Baywatch rerun in his New York hotel room, Borat decides to take the show on the road and head to California and make Pamela Anderson his wife, whether she likes it or not.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg of offenses contained in Borat; frankly you’d have to be Borat-like in personality to not leave the theatre offended in some way but you’ll be truly surprised when you find yourself sitting there, laughing at all of it. One has to admire Cohen’s sheer fearlessness in his pursuit of a laugh; just when you think he can’t take it any further, he does. In one scene, he’s at a dinner party in Georgia where he insinuates the host’s wife is ugly, confuses retired with retarded, and mishandles his bathroom etiquette. Then, just when you think things can’t get any worse, a call girl arrives at the house, and Borat introduces her as his guest.

Part of the fun though isn’t the way Cohen sets up the scene; it’s the way the everyday people become ensnared in his world. Like a naked fight between Borat and Azamat through the halls of a hotel or a Virginia rodeo where Borat sings a made-up Kazakh national anthem to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner. And while much has been made of Borat’s politically incorrect manner, sometimes it’s his “victims” that come off worse because at least we know that Cohen is pretending. For the example, the emcee at the rodeo talks about how he wishes gays and lesbians in America could be taken to the gallows or the cheering Virginians as Borat says that Kazakhstan supports America’s “War of Terror” and that he hopes that George W. Bush will drink the blood of his enemies.

Sometimes good comedy is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. I get the feeling that part of the concept of Borat is that Cohen is holding up a mirror to the “Ugly American.” This movie will not be to everyone’s taste and I think that some of the broader strokes will be lost on people who just want to see a man strip and make an ass out of himself. But Borat is a brisk 85 minutes of solid comedy performed by a man unafraid to have the police repeatedly called to the scene. In a word: Nahce!

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