Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020 Movie)

Into possibly the least hilarious year on record, he has come: not the Borat we deserve, maybe, but the one we need right now. If the title hasn't tipped you off, now you know; after five months of shooting on the sly, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan marks the triumphant return of Sacha Baron Cohen’s most beloved character: the malapropping, blithely pervy journalist whose 2004 debut became a singular sensation, earning more than $260 million at the box office and a semipermanent place — wawa wee wa! — in the American lexicon.

And what better moment could there be to poke his prodigious mustache into the zeitgeist once again? After serving 14 years in a gulag for sins against the Fatherland, Borat Sagdiyev has been released back into the wild — on the condition that he salvage the national reputation his first film destroyed by returning to the United States to win the favor of its leader, “a magnificent new Premier named McDonald Trump.”

Alas, a happy return to his home village is not to be; his wife has taken her sexytimes elsewhere and his sons have disowned him. All that remains is the livestock: two pigs, one cow, and a daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova). But when his original gifting plans are derailed, another plan is hatched — to deliver the girl to “America’s most famous ladies’ man, Michael Pence.” And so a new kind of Borat buddy comedy ensues; not with the taciturn, furry-breasted producer Azamat of yesteryear, but with young Tutar, a unibrowed ingenue who wants to taste the world like all teenagers do.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Credit: Amazon Studios

It’s more fun, surely, to know as little as you can about what follows: the visits, in varying disguises, to etiquette experts and plastic surgeons, synagogues and debutante balls, phone stores and freedom rallies. Will the Bulgarian-born Bakalova, in her English-language debut, leap to the top of the Best Supporting Actress race? She should. Does the real Mike Pence appear? He does, briefly. (And so, in a more extended and genuinely shocking sequence, does Rudy Giuliani — if "shockable" is still a word that applies to our be-numbed synapses in 2020.)

Like the first film, the new one has already sparked a lawsuit, by a Holocaust survivor named Judith Dim Evans who has since passed away; Baron Cohen dedicates the film to her, and the sentiment appears to be entirely sincere. His outrageous, uncountable isms – the confident screeds against women and Jews, the casual endorsements of incest or indentured servitude — are of course satirical, and entirely the point.

That that distinction is often lost on his unwitting costars is both the best and worst thing about watching a project like this unfold in what feels almost like real time, as far as current events — COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, the presidential election — go. It's less surprising that director Jason Woliner (The Last Man On Earth) allows his star's id to run so free, perhaps, than that so many of its other subjects behave as they do and yet still consent to appear onscreen.

If the movie's entire axis spins on the kind of extreme discomfort comedy you almost need a pillow to chew on and a pile of Xanax to get through, that's also the particular genius of Baron Cohen, an artist who instinctively knows how to hold up a mirror — and that a cracked one can show us, maybe better than anything, exactly what we need to see. A-

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm premieres Friday on Amazon Prime Video.

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Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020 Movie)
Into possibly the least hilarious year on record, he has come: not the Borat we deserve, maybe, but the one we need right now.
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