After ten years of various incarnations on British television and on HBO’s Da Ali G Show, Borat Sagdiyev, the lusty Kazakhstani television reporter, stars in his own feature film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America 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 thing about Borat is that most of the interactions are unstaged. This makes for some hilarious hijacked sequences that will be no surprise to fans of Da Ali G Show. But misogyny, anti-Semitism, class and race issues make frequent appearances, presented alongside some ingenious physical gags.
High society, ghettos and rodeos all receive Borat with different levels of enthusiasm. 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, 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 gray suit.
This is a great movie to see in theaters, not just for the experience of laughing wildly together with strangers, but also because, as Borat’s Myspace page declares, “Please you come see November 3. If movie not success, I will be execute.” Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?