The original Borat, to me, is the funniest film ever made. No matter how many times I rewatch it, I always find something new to laugh at. It could be argued that it hasn’t “aged well,” but do the revelations of the hypocrisy and ideologies of our society ever become outdated? In Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Sacha Baron Cohen revives his iconic character to create a period piece that once again serves to oust the ignorance of aspects of American culture in a time that so desperately calls for it.
In Borat 2, Borat is released from a work camp following 14 years of imprisonment after he brought mass shame to Kazakhstan following the original Borat. In an effort to develop a relationship with the new “American Regime,” the Trump Administration, Borat is tasked with delivering the Minister of Culture, Johnny the Monkey, to Vice President Mike Pence.
When Borat returns to America, he discovers that he’s become a celebrity, having to flee from fans on the street. As he adapts to the significant changes in America from his last visit, Borat goes to claim Johnny the Monkey, only to find that his 15-year-old daughter, Tutar (Maria Balakova), has eaten him and taken its place. After a botched attempt that finds Borat in a realistic Trump costume (fat suit and all) trying to give Tutar to Pence during a speech, he pivots his mission: deliver her to Trump’s personal attorney, former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani.
From there, Borat and Tutar embark on a journey that grows their relationship and opens Borat’s eyes to his prejudices, all while uncovering those of the American public. There are a few run-ins, such as those with a babysitter and Holocaust survivors, that shed a light on the good-hearted people in the country, but there are scenes with QAnon conspiracy theorists and Giuliani himself that pose questions about where our country morally stands. Much like the original film, Borat 2 is an exposé on idiocy.
The film succeeds in its unscripted encounters with unsuspecting citizens, allowing Baron Cohen to use his character’s outrageous behavior and claims to showcase their true colors. Borat is a moron, completely clueless to the world around him. Some, like Tutar’s babysitter, are shocked when Borat presents a water bowl for his daughter to drink from and disgusted when she reads Tutar a “true story” about a woman being eaten by her own vagina. Others, like the two men Borat quarantines with at the beginning of COVID, play into his antics, offering quips about the Clinton’s thriving off the adrenaline from children's blood and Democrats being a bigger threat than the virus.
Borat 2 is a very political film, and it doesn’t attempt to shy away from that. It’s one-sided in its direct messaging, but doesn’t hesitate to make fun of anyone and anything. Anybody with access to a newspaper or social media is well-aware of the divide in the country, and Baron Cohen delivers calculated and poignant “attacks” on why he thinks that is. It’s why I consider it a period piece. If someone were to ask me for a film that best represents that time we’re living in, I’d say Borat 2, without hesitation. The fact that the second half of the film and “twist” ending directly relate to the pandemic is imperative to the portrayal Baron Cohen strives to achieve. The political aspect may subtract from its rewatchability and timelessness, but the film is nothing short of timely.
People will surely be turned off by Baron Cohen’s politics, but nevertheless, it’s an entertaining, often hilarious film. Baron Cohen hasn’t missed a step in his return to the infamous character, and Maria Balakova is excellent in her portrayal as Borat’s daughter. It’s hard to top Borat’s original meetings with feminists or garage sale “gypsies,” but his new encounters will still hold memorable. Borat 2 relies more on a plot than the original and it stalls the laughs a bit, but it was going to be damn-near impossible to match, or top, the first go-around.
Borat 2 is a film that simultaneously produces laughter and gut-wrenching reveals about real sentiments held by real citizens. It may not be the sequel that some expected, but it just may be the film that we need.