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Review: Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

Directed by: Jason Woliner

Premise: A sequel to the 2006 film. Kazakh television journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) returns to the United States on a mission to deliver a gift to Vice President Mike Pence on behalf of the Kazakhstan government.

What Works: Sacha Baron Cohen’s improvisational performance art should have been a one-joke wonder but Cohen has managed to keep his shtick alive by creating multiple characters like Ali G. and Bruno and by waiting long enough between projects to keep the material fresh. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm comes fourteen years after the original film and the sequel is just as funny as its predecessor. Like the 2006 picture, Subsequent Moviefilm combines improvised public setups with scripted moments and the humor mixes sexual and gross out gags with political satire. Subsequent Moviefilm delivers for viewers who enjoy lewd humor but the satire is also much sharper in this sequel. The first film was, at least partially, about antisemitism while the new film is about misogyny. The sequel hits its target more consistently and more subversively than the 2006 picture. The satire of the first film was muted, and in some ways hobbled, by its thin narrative which was a random collection of stunts. The story of Subsequent Moviefilm is more pronounced and focuses on Borat’s relationship with his daughter Tutar, played by Maria Bakalova. This relationship is the center of the movie and it allows Subsequent Moviefilm to maintain the disarming earnestness that made Borat and the first film so enjoyable even when he and it were awful. Bakalova is the real star of Subsequent Moviefilm. She proves to be Cohen’s comic match and she gets many of the best moments in the picture.

What Doesn’t: The Borat sequel is not as tightly conceived as its predecessor. The 2006 film was a pseudo-documentary through and through and it rigidly maintained that illusion. The blending of scripted and improvised moments was seamless and part of the subversive fun of that picture. The sequel is much more scripted and some of the unscripted pranks don’t play as effectively this time around. Perhaps as a result of this shift, Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance slips in a few places. At times he is not consistent with the Borat character, especially in his voice, and the film sometimes plays like outtakes from his television series Who is America? in which Cohen played a variety of different characters in ambush interview setups.

DVD extras: Currently available on Amazon.

Bottom Line: Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm equals and in some ways surpasses its predecessor. The film is a bawdy comedy as well as a relevant political satire that makes its point while being very funny.

Episode: #829 (December 6, 2020)