Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova, Dani Popescu
Written by: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern, based on a story by Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad
Directed by: Jason Woliner
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and language
Running Time: 95
Date: 10/23/2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Pence Sieve

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A recent New York Times op-ed suggested that humor may be the best way to battle hypocrisy, and few humorists are quite as indirectly savage as Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat. Now, near the end of Trump's first (hopefully only) term in office, when America's nerves are frayed and everyone is exhausted and angry, and misinformation is flying around like excrement in a chicken coop, Borat's humor is most, most welcome. The fourteen-years-later sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, drops on Amazon Prime on October 23, 2020.

But, even as Borat chooses a disguise — a KKK hood and robe — to get himself into a Mike Pence rally undetected, I wondered, "will this change anything?" The scene made me laugh. It's a brilliant piece of satire, because many of us know that the current Republican party have become unmistakably aligned with racists and hate groups, but others vehemently deny it, even in the face of proof, and even in the face of the president actually saying it out loud. Those indoctrinated into the cult are impervious to any facts or logic, or even to satire. To them, the scene will simply fall flat. It won't move the needle at all.

Regardless, even if the sequel doesn't quite feel like the explosive cultural dirty bomb that the first movie did, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is still a tonic for those that care to partake. It does have its sickening sides, of course, such as when Borat poses as a country singer at an alt-right rally, and gets (presumably real) people to chant horrifying things about Democrats. Americans should never have become so ugly.

Shot, incredibly, during COVID-19 and incorporating elements of this strange new world into its story, Borat 2 explains that, after the success of the first movie — Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) — Borat went to prison for the adverse affect his work had on Kazakhstan. In 2020, the minister of propaganda calls Borat and assigns him to travel to America once again. The USA's new "premier," "McDonald" Trump, has befriended many evil, powerful countries (North Korea, Russia, etc.) and Kazakhstan wishes to be one of them. Borat is to bribe "No. 1 Ladies' Man" and "vice premier" Mike Pence with the gift of a monkey.

Unfortunately, Borat's rebellious daughter, who dreams of becoming the next Melania, stows away, and the monkey meets an unfortunate end. Borat gets the idea of making his daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova), the bribe instead. But first, Tutar requires a makeover, and an education in how to be a desirable American girl. This leads to the movie's feel-good through-line — and a message about female empowerment — as well as scenes like the one at a debutante ball, in which Borat and Tutar perform the "fertility dance" (I'll leave it up to your imagination), which is just a gross-out scene without much satire.

But the political scenes usually land. In one of the best, Tutar hungrily demolishes a cupcake with a tiny plastic baby on top, swallowing the toy along with the cake. Borat takes her to a doctor (in Texas, no less), with "I put a baby inside my daughter, and we need you to take it out." In another, a dejected Borat finds out (from Facebook) that the Holocaust (his country's pride and joy) was fake, and he decides to attempt suicide; he goes to a Synagogue dressed as a "Jew" (with huge nose and bat wings) to await the next mass shooting.

There's plenty more, including a much-discussed scene with Rudy Giuliani, but overall, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (its full title) doesn't seem to aim as high as its predecessor (in 2006 I wondered if a Nobel Prize could be awarded to a fictional character). The last movie seemed to capture, and newly reveal, many of America's own multi-sided disparities and truths, as well as some of its beauties. This one seems almost entirely aimed at Trump, his indoctrinated followers, and the swirling hypocrisy around all of them. Of course, those are worthy targets, but whether Borat has the power this time around to make even a dent is up for debate.

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