Monday, October 26, 2020

BORAT Is Back, But The Joke Is Wearing Thin

(Dir. Jason Woliner, 2020)

Sixteen years ago, Sasha Baron Cohen made quite a splash with his moviefilm BORAT (full title: BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN), and now the offensively oblivious Kazakh journalist returns in the Amazon streaming production (full title) BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM: DELIVERY OF PRODIGIOUS BRIBE TO AMERICAN REGIME FOR MAKE BENEFT ONCE GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN (whew, that may be the longest sentence I’ve ever written).

This time Borat once again visits American to mock more unaware citizens, and expose the racism, sexism, and homophobia that lies not far below the surface of society. That’s all well and good, but I cringed more at how cheap, and obvious the humor was more than I laughed. However, that may be Cohen’s intent with the material.

The premise largely involves Borat’s 15-year old daughter Tutar (24-year old Maria Bakalova, who is as fiercely into her character as Cohen) who stows away on her father’s trip in a crate with a monkey that was intended to be a gift to Vice President Pence in order for Kazakhstan to regain the respect it lost due to the previous Borat moviefilm.

But low and behold, Tutar ate the monkey on the long journey (see what I mean by the cheap humor?), and a new plan is formed to give Tutar as a gift to Pence. After getting a makeover including a bottle blonde dye job, Tutar and her father attend a debutant ball in Macon, Georgia, where a disgusting dance scene occurs in which Tutar, on her period, flashes the horrified party members with her blood-stained panties. This is undoubtedly the moviefilm’s lowest point.

Much better is a sequence in which Tutar scarfs down a cupcake with a tiny plastic baby the top this is after a visit to a bakery where Borat gets a cake decorated with the phrase “Jews will not replace us,” and a bunch of smiley faces. 

Tutar accidently swallows the plastic baby, and they go to a Women’s Heath Center, a Christian anti-abortion clinic in South Carolina. Of course, they don’t give the stunned counselor, pastor Jonathan Bright, the proper context with such lines as “I have a baby inside of me, and I want to take it out of me,” and Borat’s admission that “I feel bad because I was the one who put the baby in her.” That’s right, this is what I think is one of the moviefilm’s highlights.

Following that, Borat settles on a new mark: Rudy Giuliani. On their way to find the former NYC mayor, and current Trump attorney, Borat dons a Donald Trump fat suit and mask to crash a Pence event, cosmetic surgery for Tutar is considered, Borat gets a job as a barber, Tutar gets some eye-opening life lessons from her babysitter, Jeanise Jones (maybe the most grounded participant here), and Borat befriends a couple of kindly conspiracy theorists, Qanoners Jerry Holleman and Jim Russell, who he lives with under quarantine for a short time.

Yes, Borat brushes with COVID 19, but jokes about the Clintons being responsible for the virus, and calling the situation a “hoax virus shutdown” don’t land, and a bit where Borat, in redneck disguise, sings a crude country song at a far right rally in Washington is a squalidly lazy segment.

Then we come to the scene you’ve surely heard about: Giuliani’s cameo in which he’s caught in a compromising position with Tutar, who by this point has become a TV reporter. However one interprets what they see in this scene, it’s a creepy experience as Giuliani lies back on the hotel bed and puts his hands in his pants (he claims he was tucking in his shirt). What is shown here doesn’t really prove anything, and doesn’t have to real punch needed to bring all these silly strands together.

Luckily there is a real climax which makes for a more satisfying ending. But despite some funny moments and snatches of intermediate cleverness, I mostly found Cohen’s Borat schtick to grow more and more tiresome. He has targets aplenty in the age of Trump, COVID, and Qanon, but he seems to just want to put them on as fools than really skewer them as his subjects.

Again, that’s all well and good, but it’s not really a joke that keeps on giving.

More later...

No comments: