Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Dictator”) strikes again in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Fourteen years after the original “Borat” was released, Baron Cohen takes the satirical and cynical main character to Texas. In the time since “Borat 1,” the entire Obama presidency elapsed, and Trump’s first term is wrapping up. When journalist Borat Sagdiev returns to America, he finds a politically polarized country in the throes of election season. The cherry on top? “Borat 2” was filmed this spring, as the COVID-19 pandemic first swept the nation. In other words, Baron Cohen had a lot of material from which to fashion a salient critique of contemporary American culture. And boy does he ever.
The premise is simple: Borat has spent the last 14 years doing hard labor in Kazakhstan after humiliating his home nation with “Borat 1.” Under the pretenses of wanting to redeem the central Asian country, Premier Nazarbayev (newcomer Dani Popescu) commutes Borat’s sentence and gives him a fairly easy task. The journalist is to escort Jonny the Monkey, actual primate and Kazakh minister, to the United States in order to gift the animal to Vice “Premier” Michael Pence. Or, as Borat likes to say, Michael Pennis. Plans change when Borat’s daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova, “The Father”) stows away in Jonny’s crate, eats the monkey during the globe-crossing sea journey and surprises her father upon arrival in Galveston, TX.
Mayhem ensues, as Borat pranks all sorts of Texans. The list of hysterical moments is certainly topped by Borat and Tutar’s “fertility dance” at a Macon, GA debutante ball. The dance gets hairy, in more ways than one, much to the dismay of southern-belle onlookers. Baron Cohen’s humor is a special brand, and its best quality is that which also makes it so uncomfortable: nothing is off limits in pursuit of humiliating a worthy target. What defines a worthy target, well, that’s a partisan issue.
The movie has been the subject of Washington’s attention, as there happens to be a scene in which the real Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and personal attorney to President Trump, appears to put his hand down his pants while in a hotel room with Tutar, believing he was being legitimately interviewed. Giuliani claims to have been tucking his shirt in. I’ll leave the verdict up to the viewer, but there is no denying that Baron Cohen and the “Borat 2” production team pulled a fast one on Giuliani, who called the police on Baron Cohen.
By now, it is not astonishing that such a powerful political figure might be duped in this way, but that does not make the situation less dismal. In what can only be called ironic, President Trump reacted to the Giuliani incident by calling Baron Cohen a “creep.”
Borat won — that much is clear. While he may not have “redeemed” Kazakhstan (“diminished” after “Borat 1”), Baron Cohen certainly identified a number of “diminishing” characteristics of the United States. In this very consequential election year, ‘Borat 2’ makes now-redundant political arguments, but does so in a novel and darkly comedic way. The movie, admittedly not for the faint of heart, successfully mocks conservative America and concludes with a familiar charge: “Now vote, or you will be execute.” You tell ‘em, Borat.
Daily Arts Writer Ross London can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.