Monday, August 10, 2009

A Frank Review of "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (2006)

The Short Version? Fake foreigner sends up American "values."
What Is It? Mockumentary
Who Is In It? Sacha Baron Cohen.
Should I See It? Yes.

I thoroughly enjoyed Borat when I saw it at the theater in 2006, laughing heartily for extended periods of time. I still dug it when it went into heavy rotation on cable prior to the release of Brüno. I finally bought it on DVD, which is a rare thing for me, as I find comedies don't have a great shelf life for my money.

I expect a big part of my enjoyment is the loose narrative tying together diverse episodes that would only become predictable after a great many viewings. Borat is also an endearing character-- sort of a perverted, anti-semetic Balki Bartokomous. Sacha Baron Cohen is incredible in the role. The performer is intelligent enough to come up with brilliant set-ups to trap his unwitting victims into saying inappropriate things or provoking hilarious reactions without tipping his hand. Borat always comes off as good-naturedly dim, and you either sympathize with those who try to accommodate his failings or gleefully watch as he skewers bigoted, mean-spirited fools without their knowledge.

The film does have lulls, usually due to the demands of the through story. In particular, the sequence where Borat learns his newfound love Pamela Anderson falls more than a tad shy of purity, and ends up at a revivalist church, drags on for ages. I'll also buck the Brüno-bashing trend and state that the very queer Austrian is much more consistently funny in his cinematic outing than Borat. I think audiences felt more comfortable laughing at and with the Borat character, especially at a time when even the party faithful had about their fill of Bush administration excesses. Bruno's flaming homosexuality seemed to unnerve and anger a large portion of Borat's audience, where others may have just disliked the Bruno character, and certainly the pair's scripted portions were a might too similar. I recall reading a negative review of Brüno that called it on the carpet for too many quick cuts, but that critic must not have seen Borat in a while, as the camera rarely lingers for long here, either.

Anyway, Borat holds up better than most comedies, and the DVD only enriches the experience. The packaging, disc and menus all offer gags worth a chuckle, and there are actually deleted scenes worth your viewing here. If you've somehow managed to avoid the hit film for this long, do get around to it, won't you?

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