It’s difficult to believe it’s been 14 years since ‘Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’ took the world by storm. Things have changed a lot since those heady days of 2006, as Borat himself remarks “They’ve all gone calculator crazy” (obsessed with our phones).
When we first catch up with Kazakhstan’s fourth most famous celebrity, he’s doing hard labour in a gulag. After the release of the first film the country felt he had turned them into a laughing stock. It caused exports of potassium and, pubis to plummet. Borat became a pariah, with all but one of his kids despising him. Premier Nazarbayev offers him one last shot at redemption, he’ll receive a full pardon if he travels to America and gifts Johnny the monkey to Vice President Mike Pence.
So, how does a sequel mockumentary work when the entire world knows the character? Pretty spectacularly it turns out.
The film mostly follows the same plot structure as the first, they’re happy travelling together for a bit. Then they have a falling out, then they reunite.
For the most part, Sacha Baron Cohen plays Borat in disguise, the public stunts are mostly performed by his daughter, Tutar, played excellently by newcomer Maria Bakalova.
Cohen is a dedicated method actor and reportedly stayed in character for 5 days straight, whilst shooting this. That’s quite a commitment to the craft and it shows, he’s easily the Peter Sellers of our time.
What follows is a cutting satire of our modern-day lives, mixed with a really sweet Father/Daughter bonding narrative. Bakalova and Cohen are completely believable as family. It’s amazing what this humble Kazakh duo can get people to do. When Borat casually asks a store owner if a can of propane would gas 20 Gypsies, the store owner replies with “maybe the bigger one”. He also happily puts Tutar in a cage.
However, because Borat is in disguise so much, certain scenes can feel more like Cohen’s ‘who is America?’ than a straight up Borat sequel.
Like the first film, this gleefully basks in its very un-PC humour, but that is part of what makes it work so well. This is a serious work of social criticism, that also happens to be incredibly hilarious. Cohen and director Jason Woliner have made the unthinkable funny- which might just get us all revaluating how we think about racism, bigotry and sexism. Is it offensive? Yes. But if you are easily offended, don’t watch it. It’s only a film.
Exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, October 23, 2020