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Film Review: Sacha Baron Cohen Returns to his Iconic Character with ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’

Amazon Studios

Borat is back! Yes, Sacha Baron Cohen has opted, less than two weeks before the 2020 Presidential Election, to put out his sequel to the iconic comedy Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. As if the year couldn’t have more insanity going on, Cohen’s satirical journalist is here to shine a light on American foibles once more. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (also known as Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) is another uproarious comedy, with an unsurprisingly sharp edge. It may not have the shock value of the first one, but hitting the streaming interwebs on Friday through Amazon Studios and Amazon Prime Video, it’s going to leave its more, no doubt about it.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm pulls no punches, though admittedly some of the shock value is gone this time around. That being said, the laughs are there. The satire is certainly there, and when you’re genuinely surprised still by some of the choices Baron Cohen is willing to make, you know he’s doing something right. Will it become a cultural touchstone again? Probably not. Is it still one of the year’s funniest flicks? Without question.

Comparing this one to the first does neither any favors. The last one was so parodied and hammered into the public consciousness, the initial intensity with which it landed is no longer what you think of. This time around, there’s more of a meta element at play, so while it’s mostly what you think it’s going to be, there are some small wrinkles attached. Some may wish it was more of what came before, but others will appreciate the occasional zigs when the expectation was only zags.

Amazon Studios

Once more, this is a mockumentary following Kazakhstan journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Baron Cohen), who famously was sent to America a decade and a half ago. While Americans took to him, letting loose with politically incorrect remarks of all kind, Borat’s government handlers were embarrassed, taking out their anger on him. Now, the Kazakh government has opted to put him to work again, this time with a specific mission. They have a famous monkey they want to present to Vice President Mike Pence, in the hopes that President Donald Trump will look kindly on the country and consider them his latest strongmen friends. Heading to the United States, Borat is convinced by his daughter Tutar Sagdiyev (Maria Bakalova) to take her with him. No sooner do they arrive then they run into trouble.

Pivoting from presenting the monkey (for reasons you’ll see), Borat instead opts to present his daughter to Pence. In order to prep her, he again visits various average Americans, seeing the most modern ways the United States operates, as well as exposing his daughter to America for the first time. Hilarity ensues, as well as sharp edged satire, especially once the COVID-19 pandemic enters the fray.

Sacha Baron Cohen is absolutely fearless, but the breakout star here is Maria Bakalova. Cohen’s schtick is well known by now, but Bakalova is step for step with him. Her guts and commitment to the part is really something to behold. Remarkably, this is her first role, so it’s a real discovery on the part of the movie. If there are more Borat adventures in the future, Bakalova needs to be a part of them. Specifics are best left for you to discover, but she’s a comic gem and a boon to Baron Cohen’s antics here. Director Jason Woliner just lets them go nuts, with consistently amusing results. Where Baron Cohen’s improv ends and the script he co-wrote with the team of Peter Baynham, Jena Friedman, Anthony Hines, Lee Kern, Dan Mazer, Nina Pedrad, Erica Rivinoja, and Dan Swimer is a mystery, but it just works.

Amazon Studios

Though not quite as hilarious as the last one, this is still very funny, with a few surprise appearances by real life public figures that I’d dare not spoil. So much of this one is dependent on not knowing exactly where it’s going, I’ve deliberately spoken in broad strokes. Just know that the comedy set pieces in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm are as tasteless as they are brutally effective. You’ll almost certainly give kudos to Baron Cohen’s hutzpah, while laughing for a good 90 minutes and change. They didn’t reinvent the wheel here, but they have proven that the first time was no fluke.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is going to blow some folks away. Others will be left wanting a bit more. It almost certainly will struggle to replicate the first one’s Academy Award nomination in Best Adapted Screenplay. Still, it’s hard to deny that there aren’t some big laughs here. If you enjoy the Borat character at all, this is one not to miss on Friday when it hits Amazon Prime Video.

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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