Borat 2 review: Just as funny and shocking as ever
A Borat sequel was not something that anyone was really expecting in 2020...
It hasn’t been a good year for movie franchises, with the likes of James Bond, Wonder Woman and Fast & Furious all having their movies delayed because of COVID. Which makes Borat Subsequent Moviefilm just about the only big-name movie sequel to be released since the pandemic started.
And what makes it even stranger is that we didn't even know it was coming. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery Of Prodigious Bribe To American Regime For Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan, to give the film its full title, was shot in secret, and only revealed last month.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s semi-documentary comedies never rely much on story, but the loose set-up here is that Borat is sent back to America to deliver a gift to Donald Trump: a chimp, who is also a high-ranking Kazakhstani official. However, Borat’s teenage daughter Tutar – played by the very game newcomer Maria Bakalova – ends up stowing away in his luggage and Borat has to give her to Trump instead.
Of course, that’s not the important part, it's mostly a structure to hang Borat’s encounters with the American public around (though the final narrative pay-off is pretty inspired).
And those encounters are still very funny, which is really all that matters.
Last year’s Who Is America? for HBO proved that Sacha Baron Cohen can still absolutely nail the spoof interview format and he slips back into Borat like it was still the mid-2000s. The biggest issue here is that Borat is no longer an anonymous foreign reporter, and is instead an internationally beloved pop culture character, meaning that a lot of people are going to instantly recognise him.
The film acknowledges this early on, with a very funny scene of Borat running down the street while passers-by shout “MY WIFE!” at him, and him even finding an unofficial Borat Halloween outfit in a costume shop. But it does mean that Baron Cohen has to wear a handful of other disguises during the film, and those just aren’t quite as funny or effective as Borat.
And yet despite this problem, the producers still manage to get Baron Cohen and Bakalova into some incredible, jaw-dropping situations.
Obviously, to explain these in any detail would ruin the shock of seeing it go down (and unfortunately cameraphone footage of some of them has done the rounds online), but the final stretch, including a public rally and then a prominent US politician, is as gasp-inducing as anything from Sacha Baron Cohen’s body of work.
As you could probably guess from both the synopsis and the surprise release just ahead of the US election, this is a more political film than the first Borat. But at the end of the day, the funniest stuff is still just Baron Cohen spouting nonsense to unsuspecting members of the public. The controversies and shock value often overshadow what a great physical comedian he is, and Borat tumbling over some bemused-but-well-meaning Texan, eating lipstick or failing to understand how a video call works often deliver the biggest laughs.
Much like after Who Is America?, it's hard to imagine how long Sacha Baron Cohen can keep doing this type of comedy – he's too famous, he's too old, they’re too dangerous and he’s got a family now, or even just the fear that joke will get old.
But if he keeps making them, and they keep being this funny, we’ll keep watching them.
Clip via Amazon Prime Video