This Borat sequel is up to familiar antics but is far too sold on its own unearned sense of importance.
2006 was a much simpler time; it was an age where the juvenile antics of a 30-something British dude — one who became an international star for dressing up as a cartoonishly racist caricature and yelling about “my wife” — could be seen as cutting political satire, if framed within the context of also mocking the poor and disenfranchised. The original Borat frequently traded in lowest-common-denominator humor and attacked the country’s most vulnerable citizens; it was eaten up by elitist coastal critics, who could all chuckle at the follies of those less fortunate than them, while also being reassured that everyone who votes red is just some slack-jawed yokel. In terms of Bush-era cinema, it ranks just below Fahrenheit 9/11 in terms of haughty smugness — and at least Moore had the decency to weaponize his thesis towards attacking more credible enemies than the lower-middle-class. So as the title of its sequel implies, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a continuation of these same stupid tricks — except now Borat has a daughter, like anyone cares — just in time for the 2020 election. There’s even a clumsily inserted, self-important message to “VOTE” at the end; again, how timely.
But to even call this a sequel to Borat feels fraudulent, considering the character of Borat himself is barely in any of the high-concept entrapments star Sacha Baron Cohen carries out. Since so many in the general public recognize the personality, this time out Borat is largely shunted into never-ending canned bits that supposedly move the “narrative” (if one can call the loose series of events that occur a “narrative) forward; most of the heavy lifting here is accomplished via other personas, all of whom are variations on the same idea of manifested idiocy. This looser structure feels more akin to Cohen’s 2018 series Who Is America? than any of his other cinematic releases, and indeed the fragmented vignette-format would better suit the medium of television; within cinema, this amounts to nothing more than an incoherent series of gross fake-outs and cringe humor involving Kazakhstan. But what makes this Borat somehow more worthless than the original is the degree to which Cohen and director Jason Woliner (a man who’s only other directing credits are one-hour stand-up specials) have deluded themselves into believing they’re releasing a piece that’s important in the fight against fascism — or, let’s keep it real, against Donald Trump, as that’s the only real threat a neo-liberal can properly identify in the current climate. Even if Borat Subsequent Moviefilm contained some masterful, cutting-edge wit (which this doesn’t) or was revolutionary in its approach to the mode of documentary (which it isn’t), the idea that by exposing Nazis as hypocrites you’ve somehow won the battle just might be the most unintentionally hilarious thing Cohen has presented yet.
You can view Jason Woliner’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan on Amazon Prime beginning on October 23.