Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Sacha Baron Cohen's untreated multiple personality disorder is our gain. Borat is one of the funniest, most original movies in not-so-recent history. But as you'll see, it's not only the comedy that is eye-opening, jaw-dropping and cringe-inducing. In summation: It huge success! High-five! Wa-wa-wee-wa!
Jagshemash! (Note: Excuse please any and all Borat-isms in this review. They've infiltrated our vernacular--just like they will yours! Chenquieh.) Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen), a noted celebrity and TV talking head in his native Kazakhstan, is set to travel to U.S. and A. for, well, make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan. With a camera crew and his show's director, Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), along for the ride, Borat stops first in New York City. It is a nice! Like anyone from a faraway land, he is amazed that his hotel room is larger than an elevator and by all the peoples on the subway and by Pamela Anderson. In fact, he is so smitten after watching his first Baywatch episode that his mission has changed: He will go to California and marry Pamela and, hopefully, make a sexy time! Of course, he and Azamat will still have to cross the country--in their ice cream truck--to get there, stopping along the way in the biggest cities and smallest towns and seeing everything from ''vanilla faces'' and ''chocolate faces'' to women who get to choose their sexual partners.
If Academy voters had any ''khram'' whatsoever, they'd give Cohen an Oscars invite...which he'd promptly parlay into the opening scene for Borat 2. And who in their right mind wouldn't just kill to see that acceptance speech?! But I optimistically digress. Any breakdown of Cohen's inhabitance of his alter ego Borat--one of three from his beloved Da Ali G Show; he's reportedly set to immortalize Bruno, his gay Austrian fashionista from the show, next--reveals what is stealthily one of the best performance in years. Before you scoff, consider the indisputable facts: In Borat, Cohen is (a) pretending to be, if not totally becoming, someone else, and (b) has positively just one take to nail each scene, and nail each scene he does. If those don't comprise an amazing performance, in the most fundamental sense, then what's the criterion? And not to be forgotten in all that Cohen pulls off here is Borat's entire straight-faced diction--from the accent to the word usage--which audiences could appreciate more in earnest if their howls of laughter didn't overpower some of the dialogue, but who can blame 'em? Lest we forget, veteran actor Davitian (a California native!) has a hand in quite a bit of the madness as well. One of his scenes in particular will be burned into your memory for a long time to come. Oh, you'll know it when you see it--it's the one that makes a Steve-O stunt look like PBS programming.
Borat is admittedly not for everyone, because some people just don't like to laugh! In all seriousness--and more so as an obligatory disclaimer--the movie is beyond offensive and some people will walk out. But the worst thing you can do is dismiss it, even if you just skip it. Because underneath Cohen's mustache that puts Earl Hickey's to shame, his soiled suit, and his who's-gonna-know-it's-faux? Kazakh accent, the British comedian is interested not in attacking America but rather in exposing its underbelly that is rarely vulnerable--in other words, if he didn't want to wake people up with this film it would've been called Cultural Learnings of Switzerland (which still would've been pretty funny). Thus his intentions, while not necessarily educational, fall somewhere between hilarity and eye-opening satire--not vitriol. Director Larry Charles (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage) must have some stories to tell his grandchildren about the guerilla-style hit-and-run filmmaking that was executed, but as co-writer, star and character creator, Cohen shoulders all the onus, credit and death threats. His anonymity and privacy might take some hits, too. Speaking of which, he is indeed Jewish. Unfortunately for Cohen, however, he's not also black, mentally or physically handicapped, gay, a female, a gypsy, a Kazakhstani or an animal. Which is to say, loosen up, people! Nobody goes untouched here, least of all the man perpetrating the offenses.
Hollywood.com rated this film 4 stars.