‘Borat 2’ is a funny retread

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Film Critic Hunter Friesen reviews the new film “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”

HUNTER FRIESEN

Back in 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen shocked the world with his hilarious mockumentary called “Borat.” Playing the titular fake news reporter from Kazakhstan, Cohen toured America interviewing people from all walks of life. Through the character of Borat, Cohen showed Americans what they truly look like to the outside world: a bunch of overconfident and arrogant snobs that are too dumb to know how dumb they are. The film was an enormous success critically and commercially, which fueled rumors of a sequel for over a decade.

Now in 2020, Cohen is back as Borat Sagdiyev. “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” or if you want to go by the official title “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” picks up where the last one left off. Borat has just been released from the Kazakh gulags and is being sent back to America. Once there, he will deliver a special gift (it’s best I don’t tell you what it is) to Michael Pence to regain America’s trust and loyalty towards Kazakhstan.

What I just described to you is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the weirdness within this “moviefilm.” Borat’s mission is also just a shameless excuse for the character to return to America to do what he does best.

But instead of being joined by his producer Azamat like in the first film, Borat is accompanied by his daughter Tutar, who knows next to nothing of the world outside her village and is accustomed to being told that women are not smart enough to read, have a job or drive a car. This is all played for laughs, but it also does mock the seemingly backward gender norms found in parts of the world. Similar to Borat in the first movie, Tutar’s visit to the home of the brave will be quite the culture shock.

Once there, Borat is quickly recognized by everyday citizens. Knowing that being an instantly recognizable star will jeopardize his mission, he must don an assortment of disguises as he makes his way across the states. He makes stops at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an anti-mask rally and even catches Rudy Guliani doing some questionable acts, for which he has had to defend in the previous weeks.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is a lot like the leftovers you take home after a good restaurant meal. It’s still good, but it’s not as good as it was before and the only thing you can think about while eating it is how much you enjoyed the first meal. Most of the “pranks” that Cohen pulls off as Borat seem to be much more scripted in this go around. Much of the fun of the first film came from the loose and improvised feel. This sequel is much more calculated in what it is trying to say and how it goes about doing it.

This feeling of been-there-done-that isn’t completely Cohen’s fault. Unlike back in 2006, Americans have finally started to come around to the idea that we aren’t so special after all. Maybe it’s because of who we have (or had, depending on when this review is published in relation to the election) in the oval office or the idiotic way we are handling the pandemic. 2020 Americans don’t need another reminder that this country kind of sucks. We see it in our news feeds every day as we try to navigate the broken social ladder.

Despite being unneeded on a story level, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is a needed reminder of just how talented Sacha Baron Cohen is as he does what he was put on this world to do. This is his brand of comedy that no one comes close to competing in. Whether he’s dressed as Borat, a southern trucker, an extremely antisemitic portrayal of a Jewish man or Donald Trump himself, Cohen seamlessly slips into character and has you fooled instantaneously.

However, the MVP of this movie is not Cohen, but Maria Bakalova, who plays Tutar. Bakalova follows the same trajectory as Cohen did in the first movie as she expertly pulls off the naivety of a sheltered girl in a lawless land. She also carries the emotional arc of the story as her relationship with her father flourishes with each subsequent hijink.

Overall: 3.5/5

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is a perverse and vulgar film that holds a mirror up to America. While the original was fresh and inventive, this follow-up is just more of the same with less luster. But, far worse movies have gotten far worse sequels, so we should count ourselves lucky that this sequel is redeemed by the comic genius of Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova.