Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

Maria Bakalova and Sacha Baron Cohen star in “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm” now streaming on Amazon Prime. 



Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova, Dani Popescu, Manuel Vieru, Miroslav Tolj

Directed by Jason Woliner

So, where has Borat been for the last 14 years? As it turns out, the Kazakhstani reporter was serving a life sentence in a hard labor gulag for embarrassing his homeland with 2006’s “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” He’s given a reprieve by the country’s premier and a new assignment; Return to US of A to deliver Jonny the Monkey — a chimpanzee porn star and Kazakhstan’s best actor — to Vice Premier Mikhael Pence, America’s most famous ladies man, in the hope of earning Trump’s respect. The shock value may have worn off, but Baron Cohen’s cringe-watching satire is stronger than ever.

Filmed Candid Camera-style during the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, Sacha Baron Cohen dusts off the grey suit to once again portray “#4 journalist in all of Kazakhstan” Borat Margaret Sagdiyev. However, nowadays it’s more difficult for the actor to use his clandestine method of filmmaking because everyone recognizes Borat on the street. So, Baron Cohen has to take the Peter Sellers route and wear disguises like a modern-day Inspector Clouseau.

The film’s biggest surprise is Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova as Borat’s 15-year-old daughter, Tutar. Not only does she keep up with Baron Cohen, several times she upstages the actor. The most talked-about scene in the film involves a punk’d Rudy Giuliani who is under the impression that Bakalova is a foreign journalist looking for an interview, which takes place in a hotel room. She gushes over him and Giuliani flirts with her; It gets embarrassing fast, ending with the former mayor of NYC and Trump’s lawyer putting his hand down his pants.

When we’re first introduced to Tutar, she’s living in a barn while shackled to the wall (women are treated worse than the livestock in Kazakhstan). Her only solace is a small television playing the Disney-like animated movie “Melania” about a peasant girl from sh—hole country Slovenia who dreams of marrying a rich old man. Yes, you guessed it. When Jonny the Monkey dies in his crate on the trip over to America, Borat decides to off give his stowaway daughter Tutar to VP Pence as a substitute gift which causes her to dance for joy, “I will be the next Queen Melania?”

Along the way, Borat and Tutar ambush a bakery where the owner has no problem decorating a cake with the words “Jews will not replace us” and then later in the film Borat shows up at a CPAC conference dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit while Pence delivers a speech. He then changes into a fat suit and mask that resembles “McDonald Trump.” It’s amazing that Baron Cohen manages to escape from all of these pranks unscathed. But then again this is a mockumentary and it’s unclear if any of the participants were in on the joke. We know for sure that the Vice President wasn’t in on the gag as the disturbance made the news. None of us were aware that it was Baron Cohen in the costume and that it was part of Borat 2.

We also know that when Baron Cohen showed up at an alt-right rally in Olympia, Washington dressed in overalls, a fake beard, and a straw hat, no one knew it was him. It made the news after his Country Steve character got up on stage to sing a racist song that the gathered crowd seemed all too happy to sing along with, “Obama, what we gonna do?” was met with the crowd answering “Inject him with the Wuhan flu” and “Journalists, what we gonna do?” was followed by “Chop them up like the Saudis do.”

The genius behind Baron Cohen’s humor is that it’s based on the reactions of his targets while exposing the ugly side of America. As we all know that ugliness has been spreading faster than COVID-19 over the last four years and so what would have been seen as shocking 14 years ago is pretty much business as usual in 2020. It’s also a stark reminder of what lies in the balance as we head towards the upcoming election.

The absurdity and idiocracy, on display in “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm” is over-the-top hilarious and a genuine reflection of today’s climate. Sexism, racism, and anti-Semitism are not only part of the comedian’s satire, they are important reminders of what we are up against as we head to the polls. Perhaps this explains the urgency for Baron Cohen to release the film before the election.

In a recent interview with Maureen Dowd for the New York Times, Baron Cohen said he wanted the film to “be a reminder to women of who they’re voting for — or who they’re not voting for. If you’re a woman and you don’t vote against this guy, then know what you’re doing for your gender.”

Borat may be an idiot, but Sacha Baron Cohen is not. And he’s wise enough to know that you can’t hide behind the term “fake news” forever.

(3 stars)

Now streaming on Amazon Prime

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic. 

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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