The world has changed drastically since the original 2006 Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was released. But certainly not enough that Sacha Baron Cohen couldn’t feasibly return for a follow-up mockumentary like Amazon Prime Video’s Borat 2 – also known as Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premier Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan; and later after a plot turn, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
[Note: this is a spoiler-free Borat 2 review.]
The burning question on your mind right now – and what I’m willing to wager is 95% of the reason you’ve even bothered to even read this Borat 2 review – is whether the Jason Woliner directed sequel actually lives up to its predecessor from fourteen years ago. To be very blunt: it doesn’t. Though not for the reasons you think.
While Borat Subsequent Moviefilm definitely has its shockingly hilarious moments, aided and abetted by the shockingly unwitting person, not to mention a handful of scripted gags that’ll undoubtedly provoke a chuckle or two, we live in a post-Borat era. We’ve seen Sacha Baron Cohen absolutely go to town on the powers that be in disguise for decades now. Nothing could possibly replicate the reaction we had to the first because we’ve already seen the first. The toothpaste has been squeezed out. The magician has revealed the trick. The formula has been outlined. For the most part, we know what to expect. That… and the fact that Borat 2 has a disturbing lack of naked wrestle fights between two grown men (maybe Amazon Studios had an issue with it?). Sorry, I know I said no spoilers – but it’s a worthy caution.
Furthermore, when the reality of the US and its political landscape is far more ridiculous than any punchline Sacha Baron Cohen and his team of writers can creatively conceive, there’s only so much a bloke with a funny accent and cheap box suit can add to the overall situation (who could have possibly foreseen the hilarity of Donald Trump’s America would outdo George W. Bush’s America to this extent?). I suppose that was the entire point. Shining the spotlight on everyone from plastic surgeons to QAnon believers to current politicians, the real punchline in this day and age is America.
Borat 2‘s premise is simple. Or maybe that’s because each iteration of the absurdly long title blatantly telegraphs what’s to come. After the release of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev (portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen… obviously) returns to his home country a disgrace. Humiliated by his low-brow depiction of the Kazakh people, Borat has spent years in a prison camp doing hard labour. Until an opportunity for redemption presents itself.
Summoned before the government, Borat is tasked with a mission to repair international relations – or face death – by offering the country’s Minister of Culture and top porn star Jonny the Monkey as a gift to Vice Premier Mikhael Pence (Vice President Mike Pence). When that doesn’t quite work out, Borat decides the only fitting replacement for a man who is “such a pussyhound… he can’t be left alone in room with women [sic.]” such as Mike Pence would be his own 15-year-old daughter Tutar Sagdiyev (portrayed by Maria Bakalova).
There’s a makeover sequence, plenty of the obligatory cultural misalignments and misunderstandings, the occasional gross-out scene – surprisingly enough, from both Borat and his daughter Tutar – as well as some mask-off moments initiated by some playful coercion of the far-right (yes, with another sing-a-long at a which includes the phrases “Wuhan”, “Inject”, and “Obama” emphatically led by Sacha Baron Cohen himself). At times, you’ll find yourself looking away due to the sheer cringe factor; and at times, you may even find yourself meandering away from boredom. But what I will say is this – it’s all worth it for the last half hour. I’m fairly certain there’ll be real-life consequences. Especially for Rudy Giuliani.
Without revealing the money shot, the Mayor of New York and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney ends up in an extremely compromising situation involving a hotel room, hidden cameras, and… I think we’ll just leave it there. I don’t recommend reading into it too much until you’ve experienced the jaw-dropping event firsthand, but for those of you who don’t really care about spoilers and have to know right this instance, you can find out more about it here. As for everyone else – try to avoid the news cycle for another 24 hours. This shit will likely dominate headlines (and for good reason). Whether this will have any impact on the upcoming presidential election as Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova have intended remains to be seen.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm / Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premier Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan / Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is very much a satirical work of 2020, which may be its own undoing. The beauty of Borat was that despite being a film of 2006, there was a sense of timelessness to the comedy, a certain rewatch value which exists to this day. Its sequel, however, has surrendered this timeless aspect in favour of being hyper-relevant to the current socio-political landscape and accompanying zeitgeist – and if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure I really need/want to rewatch Sacha Baron Cohen in this instalment again, at least beyond this year.