Am I the last person on the planet to have seen Borat? If so, this review will not garner many hits.
It is rare for me at my advanced age (I am 50) to see any movie and truthfully say, “I’ve never seen anything like that before!” The last time I said this about a movie was back in 2004 when I saw What the Bleep Do We Know? What the heck was it? As a movie, it truly sucked, but as a film that explains string theory from a metaphysical perspective it was unique and quite fascinating.
Borat can at least be categorized. It is a comedy. This movie is so funny that unless you are humor impaired you should find yourself laughing hysterically. Do not be surprised if you are so busy laughing that you find snot is running out of your nose. Wow! How funny is Borat? It is funnier than my previously all time favorite funny movie, the classic 1980 comedy Airplane!
Okay, the real name of the movie is not Borat but Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. That is too long for billboards so the rest of us call it Borat. As you probably know, it stars the hitherto largely unknown comic Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev. Borat is ostensibly a reporter for the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. For the first ten minutes or so, we get an introduction to Borat’s wonderful life and family in Kazakhstan, which is a former republic of the Soviet Union. Borat’s family comes complete with a forty something mother who looks seventy something, an ugly and controlling wife and an annoying next-door neighbor. Amusements in Borat’s town include the annual Running of the Jews. At least in Kazakhstan, the “Jews” are in costume and are not literally paraded down the city streets and pierced with spears, as was true of Rome in Michelangelo’s time. Suffice to say that Jews, as well as Gypsies are viewed with great suspicion in Borat’s Kazakhstan.
Soon we learn that Borat along with his extremely obese partner from the media ministry Azamat (Ken Davitian) are selected by the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan to visit the United States. Borat and Azamat are to create a documentary of their experiences in America. The humor of the movie comes from the unusual way it was done. Both Baron Cohen and Davitian are in character yet interact with real Americans who for the most part have no idea that they are in character.
Life in Borat’s Kazakhstan is much, much different from life in the United States. This of course is principally its source of humor. Values too are often greatly different. Consequently, virtually any interaction with ordinary Americans is full of humorous possibilities. Baron Cohen though makes the most of each encounter. Yet somehow, he comes across as plausible. For example, he seeks advice from a coach on American etiquette and manages to say the strangest extemporaneous things to her yet he never loses character. Nor do the people he encounters have any idea that he is putting on an act. From trying to kiss men in the New York City subway (apparently a routine event in Borat’s Kazakhstan) to carrying a chicken around in your suitcase (how else would you get fresh eggs?) it is impossible not to laugh.
If, like my wife, you are the sort who could not watch old I Love Lucy shows because it made you feel terribly embarrassed, Borat is not for you. You will have to watch it through cracks between your fingers. Let’s be clear: Borat‘s source of humor is quite pedestrian. It is Animal House kind of humor. It is crude. It is often vile. It is not afraid to offend. It is over the top shocking. Frankly, it reaches some level beyond mere hilarity.
Perhaps the subtitle to the movie should have been “Borat’s search for Pamela Anderson.” It does not take him very long after settling in to his New York City hotel room before he discovers Baywatch on television. This transformational event, along with a timely telegram that informs him that his reviled wife has met an untimely demise, provides his motivation to persuade Azamat they should go to Los Angeles. There he plans to find Pamela Anderson and ask her to marry him. In Borat’s Kazakhstan, this apparently involves putting a specially embroidered bag over the woman’s head and dragging her away.
Obviously, I do not want to reveal too much of this convoluted plot. Suffice to say you will laugh until you cry. You will be awed at the overwhelming audacity of Baron Cohen. Watching this movie must be something like lighting a dozen firecrackers inside a tin shed. You probably have an idea of what the experience would be like, but unless you actually do it, you would not really know. That is Borat‘s appeal. It is a singular experience and it is unlike anything you have seen on film before. Maybe you have seen what you thought were weird films like John Water’s Pink Flamingos. Step aside, John Waters. You have been outdone.
If you hated I Love Lucy, you will hate this movie. In fact, you will probably walk out after the first few minutes. Otherwise, be prepared to laugh until your lungs are about to collapse. Aside from saying that Borat is the funniest movie I have ever seen, I will not rate it. If this kind of funny movie appeals to you, you simply dare not pass it up.