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

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

Directed by: Larry Charles

Premise: A pseudo-documentary of Kazakhstani filmmaker Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) who travels across America to meet Pamela Anderson.

What Works: Borat is the most outrageous and politically incorrect mainstream film since South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut and this film finds similar ways of provoking the audience. The picture elicits most of its laughs through Borat’s misogynistic and anti-Semitic remarks as well as a few gross out gags. While doing this, the film makes fun of Borat’s idiocy and allows the audience to laugh at these disgusting remarks for their outrageousness and impropriety. If Borat’s outrages were without context, they might appear merely sophomoric, but the film juxtaposes Borat’s outbursts with the attitudes of Americans and by placing the two together the film becomes a critique of American culture. The character of Borat is itself a caricature of American views of Eastern Europe and is slightly exaggerated to fit that end, similar to the locations and characters in Team America: World Police. The comments and behaviors of Borat fit into this critique of American culture. Borat is also successful as an aesthetically subversive piece. The film is a mix of sections that are deliberately staged and sequences that appear to involve people who are not in on the joke, most notably politician Alan Keyes. These sequences lend weight to the cultural criticism of the film but also mix the distinction between what is and is not “real,” making Borat in part a satire of the documentary genre.

What Doesn’t: As a satire, Borat does come up short. Its critiques on American culture are not as sharp as the work of Matt Stone and Trey Parker and they lack the insight of George Carlin. In the end there is little to be learned about any of the many subjects that Borat takes on.

Bottom Line: Borat is a hysterical film for those who get the joke. Those who just desire some outrageous scenes with some toilet humor thrown in will enjoy the picture. Upon close examination there is more to Borat than first meets the eye, but the film has a way to go to be a truly subversive picture.

Episode: #117 (November 12, 2006)