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Review: 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm' - Some Political Instruction From Sacha Baron Cohen

Kurt Loder on

One of the most irritating things about rabid Trump haters is the frequency with which they compel mere Trump loathers to reluctantly come to the defense of Donald Trump. "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," Sacha Baron Cohen's sudden follow-up to his 2006 mock-doc about the Kazakh journalist/idiot Borat Sagdiyev, is the latest case in point.

With one delightful exception, the movie has little to recommend it to anyone beyond the rabid-Trump-hater community and fans of egregiously "edgy" cringe humor. Once again, we have an English comedian taking us on a tour of America's many shortcomings. We see a republic filled with fat yokels and country music and clothing stores where you can walk in and buy a full set of Ku Klux Klan robes, presumably right off the rack. We meet racists, misogynists, anti-Semites and paranoid patriots who say things like "Hillary drinks the blood of children." The existence of such benighted citizens is unlikely to come as a surprise to many moviegoers, although they might find having these people decried by a British person a little irksome.

There's a lot of Trump-walloping here, of course: photos of the president in the company of Jeffrey Epstein (although former President Bill Clinton was apparently a much closer associate of that convicted sex criminal) and an uproarious scene in which Cohen, in a Trump-styled fat suit, invades a Conservative Political Action Conference.

There's more of an attempt at a real story in this second film, which unfortunately slows the movie's pace, especially in the beginning, where we're shown that Borat is still breaking rocks in the prison to which he was consigned after humiliating his native Kazakhstan with his first film. Then he's abruptly released and directed to fly to America and restore the country's dignity with a bribe to be conveyed to Vice President Mike Pence (it's complicated). In a pit stop at Borat's home, we meet his three sons, one of whom has renamed himself Jeffrey Epstein. (As with the first movie, this one is rich in strained humor.) We also make the acquaintance of Borat's daughter, Tutar, played by a sunny Bulgarian actress named Maria Bakalova, who is the best thing in the movie.

The Borat shtick remains the same as before, and it feels played out. Cohen's sucker-punch humor -- based on the conceit that he's secretly filming his encounters with clueless rubes -- is even less persuasive here than it was in the first movie. How likely is it that the bizarre Borat could walk into a small bakery and ask the woman behind the counter to adorn a large chocolate cake with the words "Jews Will Not Replace Us" -- and not have the cake thrown in his face? (This woman betrays not a blink of surprise and quietly fulfills Borat's request.)

As was often pointed out in connection with the first Borat movie, one cannot film a person in a humiliating situation of one's own devising and expect to be allowed to just stick the resulting footage into a movie. The victim must first sign a release. Usually, this will be done before the demeaning event -- which could, of course, benefit a filmmaker working in bad faith. So, too, could the traditional practice of deceptive editing, which, in this movie, is used to attempt a take-down of Donald Trump's attorney, the widely unloved Rudy Giuliani.

The setup has Borat's attractive daughter Tutar passing herself off as a foreign TV journalist to whom Giuliani has agreed to give an interview. We see them in a hotel suite, seated in chairs facing each other, waiting for the camera to roll. Giuliani is breaking the ice with some light China bashing. When the interview is over, Tutar invites Giuliani into the bedroom for a drink. (You might think the 76-year-old Giuliani would have heard a warning bell ringing at this suggestion, but no.) After the interview, Tutar tries to help Giuliani disentangle himself from the wires of his lavalier microphone. Then we see Giuliani lying on his back on the bed, reaching into his pants. (In a subsequent tweet, Giuliani said: "The Borat video is a complete fabrication. I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment.") Next, Cohen comes running into the bedroom wearing some sort of red-and-pink bustier and shouting that Tutar is only 15 years old -- "too old for you!"

 

This sequence strongly recalls the failed gay seduction scenario that Baron Cohen attempted to stage with Ron Paul in the 2009 film "Bruno." In this case, though, it's been successful in causing Giuliani some embarrassing trouble: He's been roasted in the press and accused of coming on to a 15-year-old girl. (Unfortunately, Maria Bakalova is actually 24 years old, and by the time Cohen tried to tell Giuliani she was 15, the interview had wrapped.

Giuliani aside -- collateral damage! -- I think it's fair to say that "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," which is being released 11 days before the U.S. presidential election, is a Trump hit job that Cohen intends to have a political effect. This is OK with me -- although, if the movie were a Russian project, there'd surely be an uproar. If Hollywood polemicists want to go after this guy, they'd do well not to be so off-puttingly obvious about it. They may be driving some people -- however temporarily -- into Trump's corner who have no desire to be there.

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Kurt Loder is the film critic for Reason Online. To find out more about Kurt Loder and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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