Borat will make you laugh, but it will also make you feel like taking a shower. It’s one of the funniest movies since Happy Gilmore and probably more comically revolutionary than any Mel Brooks movie, but the bright side is seriously tarnished by seedy, dirty, and childish scenes and by the director’s politics, which leave a lasting polluted feeling.
Sacha Baron Cohen, known to many as the odd ghetto-wanna-be talk show host Ali-G, plays a Kazakhstani touring the United States for the sake of a state-run documentary. The film begins in a rural town in Kazakhstan (really Romania) where ignorant, supposedly real-life bystanders smile as Cohen speaks in a hilarious phony accent and completely ridicules the people. Cohen’s character gets in a car (which is pulled by a horse) and the next thing he knows he’s in America.
What follows is a uproarious series of events, which director Larry Charles uses to make subtle and not so subtle political jabs, including Borat singing a botched national anthem at a rodeo, getting fashion tips from street thugs, inviting a prostitute to a high-society dinner, and getting saved. The Borat character is strictly anti-semetic (revealing an interesting contrast to Cohen and Charles), and uses his bizarre viewpoint to bring out unlikable quotes in the unwitting costars. In one scene, as Borat speaks to a rodeo worker, he coerces him to say that we’re trying to kill all the gays here in America, like they do in Kazakhstan.
While it brings out some uncomfortably humorous points, the writers Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines, and Todd Phillips have radical perspectives that are overwhelming in much of the film, to its detriment. The shameful in America (prostitution, thug life) is given a positive light, while some valuable institutions (religion, police, patience, politeness ), and some benign cultural aspects (Southern etiquette) are mocked in disturbing ways. Charles wants the viewer to dislike Southern conservatism and perhaps Evangelical Christians, but wants the viewer to maintain their illogical appreciation for other things American, like Pamela Anderson, who happen to be the butt of a hilarious and shocking prank toward the end of the movie.
Borat is a likable character and that is why some of the blatant sarcasm in his ignorant remarks referring to Jews and killing in the Middle East may be lost on much of the viewing public. If you can stand disgusting humor, like fat naked men wrestling and running through seminars, you will find this movie hilarious, but beyond the gross, childish humor, the viewer should be ready for some unrelenting racism and political vitriol. This all brings the value of this revolutionary movie down to the level of a frat joke, which, interestingly is one of the institutions Cohen mocks in the movie.
This will be an extremely popular movie, but that’s not a comment on how good it is; it’s a comment on how wanton and self-loathing our culture is.