Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy has always been about bringing out the ridiculousness of others. He exposed an entire city’s Islamophobic views in his Showtime series “Who is America?” and confronted members of the Westboro Baptist Church in “Brüno.” He continues to prove himself as a master comedian in his new mockumentary, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (or whatever the film’s final title ends up being).
Cohen’s return to the Borat character is the first in nearly 14 years (aside from some brief TV appearances). He returns however to a totally different America. Donald Trump is no longer the host of “The Apprentice” but is an impeached President. Citizens are divided on nearly every issue. And the political incorrectness that Borat was able to bring out of his subjects is now found every day on nearly every website, television show and just in general conversation.
We have become so desensitized to the humor and shock that made “Borat” such a success in 2006. To combat this, Cohen attempts to go even bigger than his Academy Award nominated smash hit managed to. And since everyone and their mother now know who Borat is, Cohen has to have Borat go into many disguises to be unnoticed out on the street.
This however becomes the main issue with Borat’s sequel. 2006 was a different time, with little content uploaded to YouTube and social media only starting to take off at that point. The first iPhone wouldn’t be released for another seven months. “Borat” was able to shock audiences with the first mainstream foray into Cohen’s style of comedy aside from his Channel 4 and HBO series, “Da Ali G Show.”
Now, you can find this improv and satire on nearly every YouTube prank channel. And the once ridiculous, candid statements Cohen was able to get out of his interviewees are commonly found on every social media site, including the President’s Twitter.
However, with visits to a farm store to buy his daughter a cage to sleep in, a synagogue to meet with a Holocaust survivor and even staying at a stranger’s home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cohen effortlessly steps back into the Borat role. He is not only one of the best comedians of all time, but also one of the smartest. The way he is able to get hilarious responses from his interview subjects while never breaking character is phenomenal.
The best part of Borat’s second trip from Kazakhstan to America, however, isn’t even Borat himself: It’s his daughter, Tutar, played marvelously by Maria Bakalova. With rapid fast dialogue, witty responses in improvisational scenes and a “moonblood dance” that will make your jaw drop as you attempt to look away, Bakalova is a force to be reckoned with on the screen. Cohen and Bakalova are a dynamic pair that rival what the characters of Borat and Azamat had in the first film. If there is an Academy Awards ceremony for this year, Bakalova should be in contention for her breakthrough performance.
Borat’s surprise return also comes at an important time in America: the 2020 general election. And the film does not hold back the punches to the current administration. Borat not only visits “Vice Premiere” Mike Pence at this February’s CPAC event, but also has his daughter Tutar interview “Premiere” Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. This political tone allows Cohen to deliver a substantial and timely message that can be viewed by mainstream audiences. And the film ends with a perfect sendoff less than a week to the election: “Now vote, or you will be execute.”