Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
by Andrew James
For those unfamiliar, Borat is a character played by Sacha Baron Cohen. Cohen is the creative mind behind HBO's "The Ali G Show." Ali G is another one of Cohen's characters. The premise behind the show is that these characters, who are ultra-stupid and/or culturally and socially illiterate, meet with "normal" members of society and harass them to no end, pretending to be unaware of the insults they are making. For instance, Borat tells his dinner host at a high society meeting that his wife would make a great prostitute back in his country. This is an extremely tame example of the hilarity that ensues in this film, but you get the idea.
Borat's character is supposedly from a small village in Kazakhstan. The customs here would astonish and maybe even sicken most Americans. So Borat decides to trek across America to learn more about our culture and ideals, in order to teach his village how to be more like America.
About 85% of the movie is Borat's uncomfortable meetings with various, real people around America; not actors, but real people he's harassing. Sometimes these scenes are shown using a hidden camera and other times the person being interviewed or talked with is obvioulsy very much aware that he is part of a documentary. Although the person usually believes that Borat is a real person from Kazakhstan, so (s)he goes along with the idiocy Cohen's character portrays, thinking it is just a "cultural thing." However, his antics are so over the top, that Borat is nearly arrested (for real) on more than one occasion through the course of the movie.
The other 15% of the film plays more like a movie. Obviously scripted and or acted to help the "story" of Borat and his producer travelling across the country. These were the weak moments and I think the film would've been better served to just stick with the schtik, so to speak. The aforementioned part where I closed my eyes was during one of these scenes. I won't give it away, and some of it might actually be edited before nation-wide release (otherwise I will be shocked if this film doesn't get slapped with an NC-17 rating).
What is striking about the movie, besides the obvious, is the stupidity not of Cohen's character, but of the people throughout the country he encounters; particularly in the south. In Borat's semi-fictional country, Jews and gays are hated, and in the context of the film is actually pretty damn funny (Cohen himself is actually Jewish, so he's allowed to poke fun a bit). But when he meets certain people around the country who agree with him, but to the Nth degree, it is surprising and saddening. In fact, it's a little shaming that these people are my fellow countrymen. Instead of slinking down in your seat, all you can do is laugh at the intolerance and stupidity. It must be noted that it's not only Jews and gays that are poked fun at. This is one of the most politically-incorrect movies of all time. Cohen includes women, Christians, blacks, the mentally challenged, Uzbekistahnis and pretty much every other group or culture that you can think of with his insulting behavior. So if you're not able to take these insults with a grain of salt, just stay home or go join one of the hundreds of protest groups, who apparently don't believe in free speech, that have been formed in order to try and halt the movie's release.
With only one or two truly gut-wrenching, laugh-out-loud moments, Borat failed to really get my attention. It works really well as a skit or series of skits on the tv show, but is tough to stomach asa full-length motion picture. It just gets to be too much and the movie did seem longer than it really was. Having said that, the film is still one big chuckler all the way through. There will be a very small amount of time you'll spend without at least a smile on your face or your belly bouncing a bit with chucklery.
For those who appreciate films like Jackass or Clerks II, Borat is a well-blended combination of both types of film: reality, ass-headedness and over the top, insulting comedy. Although in my opinion, it's not quite as good as these other movies. If this is your thing, you'll really enjoy Cohen's "movie film." If you're easily insulted, need a plot deeper than a fox hole, or just don't appreciate depravity depicted with real life interactions, stay FAR away from Borat. For the rest of you who want mindless, retarded, bordering on sick comedy, this should be right up your alley. I'd recommend renting a copy of "The Ali G Show" before seeing this movie, so at least you know, kind of, what you're getting into. In closing, Pamela Anderson now has one more, big, bright spot to staple to her resume.
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
Borat's myspace profile
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