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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America: A Review

Erica Patino Oct 9, 2006

BoratBorat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Directed by Larry Charles, Starring Sacha Baron Cohen
Wide Release Date: November 3, 2006

After 10 years of various incarnations on British television and in the United States on HBO’s Da Ali G Show, Borat Sagdiyev, the lusty Kazakhstani television reporter, stars in his own feature film, Borat: Cultural Learnings for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen gives us a scathing mockumentary as Borat and his plump producer Azamat go to the United States on assignment from the Kazakh Ministry of Information to “learn lessons” that will be useful to their home country. Once he gets to America, Borat discovers a new mission: driving cross-country in an ice cream truck to make Pamela Anderson his wife.

The best and worst quality about Borat is that the majority of interactions are not staged. High society, ghettos, and rodeos all receive Borat with different levels of enthusiasm. This makes for some hilarious hijacked sequences that will be no surprise to any fans of Da Ali G Show, but it also presents blatant social bigotry sure to make any conscientious American wince.

To go into any great detail would be to ruin many of the funniest parts of the film, but suffice it to say that misogyny, anti-Semitism, class and race issues are frequent fodder, and are presented alongside some ingenious physical gags as being equally humorous. When Borat goes into a gun shop and asks, “Which gun would be best to shoot the Jews?,” the man behind the counter doesn’t miss a beat, recommending a 9 mm handgun. It’s funny because Borat is fake, but it’s awful because the store owner’s response is real.

Borat is not for those who are easily offended, but for audiences who enjoy fighting fire with fire, the movie offers some of the sharpest satire in recent film. You’ll laugh, you’ll flinch, and you’ll wonder how so many people could say such dumb things to an enthusiastic foreigner in a tattered grey suit.

This is a great movie to see in theaters, not just because of the shared experience of strangers laughing wildly together, but also because as Borat’s Myspace page declares, “I make a movie film. Please you come see November 3. If it not success, I will be execute.” Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?