With a sequel that will hopefully bring great fame to the country of Kazakhstan once more, the inevitable return of Borat was something I’d been looking forward to. Not just because I think Sacha Baron Cohen has nailed the costume slapstick necessary to keep these characters fresh, but because if there’s one man that can salvage this horrid year, it’s Borat Sagdiyev. I couldn’t possibly think of going into the sequel without returning to the original, the stomping ground of Borat’s first big-screen appearance. Dusting the nostalgic cobwebs off of this one was rather daunting, especially with a track record for these films being utterly miserable upon returning to them.
Thankfully, nostalgia falls to the wayside rather immediately. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is just as funny as you remember. Shock value comedy mixed with the great stylish choices frequent Cohen collaborator and director Larry Charles can bring to the table. We get a feel for a journalist finding himself in America, the oddity of being a fish out of water presented in the most offensive and humorous capacity possible, afforded to a man in a grey suit, and his slimy producer.
It might be full of toilet humour, interactions with the public for the sake of comedy, and one kidnapped Pamela Anderson, but Borat is smarter than it may appear. It showcases moments of bigotry in circles that wouldn’t have been highlighted if it weren’t Kazakhstan’s fourth greatest journalist. Smarter than it appears at times, it’s a film that loses its shock value on a rewatch, but that value is replaced by something far greater, one of societal commentary and a surprising uncovering of a whole slew of American subcultures. We dive into rodeo Texans, frat house subculture, and Republican etiquette classes. They’re detailed in brief flutters, but such poignant moments come to life when the highlight reel is shown, the best bits filtered through in a consistently short piece.
Maybe the biggest surprise of all is that such a relatively small character of The Ali G Show could go on to outshine its titular birthing ground. Borat isn’t just a great comedy film, it’s a surreal showcase of American subcultures that us Brits across the pond may not be aware of. Cohen and Charles are so dedicated to finding the humour in the bleakest and strangest of circumstances that they find themselves in over their heads often. That, to me, is where the beauty of the comedy lies. Seeing Borat head into a Baptist church or excuse himself at a dinner party, the reactionary comedy bases itself on people we as a community may look down upon as being weird or disrespectful to others. It makes it okay to laugh at it in times.