There’s every chance you’ll be minutes into Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm and you’ll find yourself squirming in your seats for the wrong reasons. Rather than seeing some clueless subject dig themselves a hole on camera, it’s instead that sort of familiar discomfort you get with comedy sequels; the ones that try to tap into the success that came before but end up leaning on the same old set-ups and predicted punchlines. If we wanted those jokes, we’d just rewatch the original, right?
And yet, here is Sacha Baron Cohen once again in that cement grey suit, brandishing balls as big as his moustache reciting lines that are now as iconic as Homer Simpson’s. That’s the risk of returning to the well, where even 14 years on ‘IS NICE’, ‘I LIKE’ and ‘JAGSHEMASH’ may have died a death at our own hands (and poor impersonations) but it’s a bingo card we’re prepared to work through. What’s brilliant with Borat’s comeback tour is that Cohen is fully aware of this, and that shuffle in your seat or fear of limited funny will be brief, quickly making way for his alter-ego that has adapted to the times and the people inhabiting it, setting up for what is unquestionably one of greatest comedy sequels ever made, and a sting operation on the United States overseen by one of the most famous moustaches ever grown.
So where’s the mankini-loving muppet been all this time? Well, while the first film may have been a ‘great success’, Borat fell from fame in his homeland after Kazakhstan became a laughing stock of the planet following his antics in 2006. Now in an effort to redeem himself and restore his country’s honour, the dedicated and dim-witted journo is tasked with seeking an audience with American Vice President Mike Pence and offering him a gift, in order for Kazakhstan to gain new allies the U S and A, and most importantly its great leader, McDonald Trump. Cue ropey looking map graphic and Sadjiyev rocking up in America with the gift replaced with stowaway, and Borat’s own daughter, Tutar (played by new partner-in-crime, Maria Bakalova). Here begins a heartwarming road trip that reconnects the two in between learning more about American culture, his daughter’s first cage shopping trip, and what might be one of the most shocking hidden camera moments in history.
Credit must of course fall to Sacha Baron Cohen for managing to bring back what many would have deemed a tired formula and refreshing it for a world and audience that (for the most part) are quite literally in on the joke before he tells it. As soon as Borat takes to the streets, he’s mobbed by bystanders that are asking for autographs and yelling JAGSHEMASH before he flees the scene, forcing him to rework his ‘investigative journalism’ technique for the various clueless characters he and Tutar encounter. From there, there’s no amount of padding thick enough to cushion the blow of your jaw dropping repeatedly, as Cohen shines a spotlight on the Trumpian era of America in a way that only he can. With the appearance of a village idiot and precision of a guillotine, Cohen sets his sights on a number of guilty bystanders that make career-ending appearances, highlighting the fears and ugly truth that no viral video can compete with.
But whereas as Borat is most responsible for belittling and befuddling the most concerning characters this world has to offer, Subsequent Moviefilm does what its predecessor couldn’t and makes a case that even those caught in the gag have the best intentions, mainly thanks to Bakalova’s support.
There are simply countless ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry moments’ as the man behind the ‘tash, and his daughter test their poker faces to the limits, but Bakalova as Tutar in particular presents a case that all is not lost, and the world isn’t going to hell in a hand basket after all. In among the shock and side-splitting there’s not just a heartfelt fictional relationship between father and daughter, but moments of genuine care and consideration from total strangers that do a little to restore your faith in humanity, even if some come from individuals with questionable view points, others involve a ball and chain, and another spawns from holocaust denial.
Here’s where Cohen’s caught-on-camera antics might spark discussion that someone should’ve pressed STOP when they didn’t, and if the risk was worth the reward. This is in reference to one encounter where Cohen himself, has revealed as being the only time he let the interviewee in on the secret after the cameras stopped rolling. It’s part of a bittersweet segment that clearly has a message it’s trying to deliver but might be lost in transmission, and where even Borat should’ve known better.
However, whether you’re a fan of the crazy-haired reporter or not, Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, deserves to be recognised not just as one of the funniest films in recent years, but perhaps one of the most important of 2020, thanks to a finale that will no doubt be talked about and analysed not just in the coming weeks, but for years to come. Somewhere in among the razor-sharp satire, Cohen has highlighted in an unquestionable fashion that some lines needed to be crossed if it ensures that other’s aren’t, and that those in power need to answer for their actions, even if it’s to the No. 3 reporter in all of Kazakhstan.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm will be available on Amazon Prime from October 23 2020.