Review: Borat

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  November 3, 2006 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

As it states in the film, Kazakhstan is a backward land where the national drink is fermented horse urine, prostitutes are nationally ranked, horses have the vote but women don't, the premier's wife's duties include sleeping with foreign dignitaries, and villages across the country celebrate the traditional "running of the Jew".

From this rather mixed up land comes the innocent and curious journalist Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) who is sent to America to film a documentary about the "greatest country in the world". Borat is determined to make it the best film his country has ever seen and his mission seems sound until he witnesses the "perfect angel" that is Pamela Anderson. Obsessed with the Baywatch beauty, Borat gets his documentary crew to make a detour to California so Borat can make Pamela his wife.

For you to understand what Borat is, you have to understand the man behind the outrageous character. Sacha Baron Cohen is what you would call a shock comedian. On his wildly popular TV show Tha Ali G Show, Cohen tries to get people out of their element so that he can poke fun at how absurd some things are in our culture. The whole formation of who Borat is can be offensive to some, but really, all Cohen is doing is showing us just how stupid stereotypes and misconceived assumptions really are.

The film is brilliant in that it shocks viewers into challenging cultural stereotypes by being so over the top. The perfect scene to showcase this is when bumbling Borat decides to interview a group of "feminists". The conversation remains focused on the ladies and their goals to bringing feminism to the forefront. A very confused and nave Borat asks, "How can this be when the woman's brain is so much smaller than a man's?". That's it one of women stands up and walks out. But if you understand where this man is supposed to be from and his ideas of culture, then it would be a poignant question. It also showcases just how not every culture in the world sees things the way these ladies do and how much work they really still have in front of them.

Anthropologists would have a field day with this film because it's about the clashing of cultures and challenging of social norms, and makes people look at themselves through outrageous humor.

I could go on for another four or five paragraphs about every little in joke and event in the film, but that would spoil its impact. Comedy has never been this fresh and it has been a while since we have seen this kind of social commentary interlaced with shocking jokes. Think of this film as a gross-out/road comedy mixed with the intelligence of The Daily Show and Archie Bunker and you might come close to what Borat is all about.

I don't know how much of this film is staged and how much Cohen is able to get the people in it to do what they do, but none of it feels fake. I also liked that the film felt like it was shot on late 70s videotape. It brings more raw energy to the story of Borat.

It will be interesting to see more characters from Sacha Baron Cohen. But the question is: what is the man going to do when he runs out characters and social stigmas to make fun of? (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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