In a 2019 speech at the Anti-Defamation League, British comedian-actor Sacha Baron Cohen attacked social media platforms for enabling the proliferation of hate speech and misinformation. He also perfectly encapsulated the purpose of his ridiculous characters like Borat, stating that he uses them to “get people to let down their guard and reveal what they actually believe, including their own prejudice.”
For all the fun we made of Baron Cohen’s 2006 surprise hit and countlessly quoted lines like “Very nice! How much?” and “High five,” Borat is more than a mere collection of catchphrases. Underneath its green G-string shenanigans and nude male wrestling is a rather unpleasant portrait of American culture.
14 years later, the gray-suited, mustachioed prankster returns for another cinematic illustration ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the breathlessly titled Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Expect jokes aplenty, moments that’ll leave your mouth agape, and incredible heart. Yes. Borat did some growing up, too.
Following the first film's events, Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev was sentenced to 14 years of hard labor for making Kazakhstan a global laughingstock. He’s prepared to redeem himself, however, by delivering a special gift to American Vice President “Mikhail” Pence. The plan goes south when Borat’s daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova, a very funny Bulgarian newcomer), stows away to America with him. This curveball changes Borat’s course of action, which is to turn his teenage offspring into a gift worthy of the vice president.
Right there, you should know you’re in for one wild ride. While it’s not quite as crazy as the first film, save for maybe scenes involving a menstruation dance and exposing a former mayor, most situations are conversational to get a rise out of the rotten fruit of humanity.
At the time of the first film, you needed a character like Borat to reveal people’s inner prejudices. Now those feelings are more overt. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Baron Cohen said, “Racists are proud of being racists.” Borat Subsequent Moviefilm highlights that in a pretty big way.
Baron Cohen’s work will undoubtedly make you uncomfortable, laugh and ruffle some feathers. But at the end of his latest film, he’s holding up a mirror to the hatred of America. Learn from it and be pulled in by its surprisingly sweet father-daughter relationship.