Review of “Borat Subsequent MovieFilm”


Screenshot from "Borat Subsequent MovieFilm"

Borat is back with some new costumes- and a daughter!

Do you remember “Borat”? Of course you do, and so do I. It was one of the most memorable films of my childhood despite being something that a child should probably not be watching. It was one of the funniest, too- at the time. In times as dark as these, you’d think the character’s knack for exposing the underbelly of America’s culture would be as needed as ever, but despite being able to get a few laughs out of me, I found the premise undermined by hypocrisy and the pranks diluted with too many scripted scenes.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm functions much as the first movie does-Sacha Baron Cohen plays a vile, misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic character who makes the unwitting dupes and victims of his pranks comfortable enough to indulge their ugly prejudices and -isms, thus exposing this side of America for all to see, warts and all. We laugh (or gasp in shock, or cringe) as Borat gets a creepy old man to make creepy old man comments about his daughter at a debutante ball and as he gets anti-mask protesters to sing along to racist anthems, but these insightful, fun pranks are weighed down by half a movie’s worth of scripted scenes that serve to push the plot along, and at times I was left wondering whether some of the people were “in on it” or not. The heavy editing also leaves room for doubt as to just how duped some people were, and in the process some of the punch is taken out of the satire when you can’t really say just how much was exposed.

What sucks the venom out of this sting, however, is the hypocrisy of both this film and its predecessor in ostensibly punching up at America’s bigotry while elbowing-down in the wind-up by indulging in a xenophobic stereotype of people in Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

Borat’s portrayal of Khazakstan is less than flattering. (Screenshot from “Borat Subsequent MovieFilm”)

“Look at these racist people, aren’t they terrible?” the movie says, while making jokes at the expense of Kazakhstan that depict it as a medieval, backward hellscape. As Inkoo Kang said of the first movie in her 2018 article for Slate, “in an era when the ruling administration’s single most vile act hinges on the dehumanization of outsiders, it’s hard to laugh as a white comedian takes potshots at a “shithole country” for 86 minutes while exploiting stereotypes about the poor and uneducated.”

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm does just fine at comedy, but it doesn’t expose more than its subjects already say willingly on Twitter these days. The people it does the best job of exposing are its adoring fans: genteel liberals who will snark about the President’s deplorable, racist followers but are perfectly fine indulging in xenophobic caricatures and the crude stereotyping of poor and uneducated people as long as it’s in service of The Greater Woke. This movie had some funny jokes, but all in all, I did not find Borat Subsequent Moviefilm to be very nice.