When Borat was first released back in 2006 it blasted its star, Sacha Baron Cohen, into the comedy stratosphere and emerged as a massive surprise hit in the process. In the 14 years since Cohen has grown both as an artist and a comedian, making the pressure on Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm all the more daunting.
Luckily Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm doesn’t just live up to its predecessor, it downright surpasses it in many ways. While the original movie did have a lot of laughs and memorable moments, it felt more like a mishmash of wacky hijinks than an actual story. This is the main manner in which the sequel supplants its predecessor.
Early on in Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm we’re introduced to Borat’s daughter, Tutar (played brilliantly by Maria Bakalova). As Borat is sent to America in hopes of getting in with the Trump regime (and joining his club of strongman dictators) his daughter secretly joins him. Though this ruins Borat’s original mission, he adapts by making her his gift to the greatest ladies man in US&A, Michael Pence.
Though the inclusion of Tutar feels clunky at first, the interplay between the two is ultimately one of Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm‘s greatest strengths. The relationship, silly as it is, allows this satirical farce to have some real heart and soul, something that was missing in the original Borat. Though comedies are often judged by their abilities to make us laugh, having a real arc for their characters makes them all the more rewarding.
Not to worry if you’re just here for the laughs, though. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is filled with as many of the audacious, laugh out loud moments as the first film. As usual, it’s Sacha Baron Cohen’s many interactions with real-life people that give the movie most of its punch. As he’s forced to ditch the Borat persona for much of the movie (since the character is far too recognizable now), Cohen does most of the heavy lifting by inventing new characters.
Equipped with a fat suit, some prosthetics and a few wigs, Cohen makes bad Halloween costumes into believable (if buffoonish) real people. Though there are plenty of awkward, cringe-inducing moments that this level of effort produces, there are, again, some surprisingly heartfelt interactions.
Though the typical assholes and scumbags do show up from time to time, they’re juxtaposed with genuinely sweet and good people. A woman who Tutar stays with for much of Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm seems to have real care and concern for her. Two Jewish ladies that Borat meets in a Synagogue brush off his offensive disposition and really try to get through to him. Even the misguided hillbillies that take him in seem like they have some good in them, colored though it might be by hatred and conspiracy theory.
Yes, there is a madcap scene of absurdist mayhem at a Pence rally, and yes, Rudy Giuliani seems to nearly incriminate himself horrifically in a late scene, but truly the biggest impressions that many viewers will come away with emerges from the heart of the film. Whereas Who is America? presented a downright grim version of Trump’s America, Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm seems to be a little more hopeful and nuanced. In a year as punishing as 2020 has been, this is a welcome surprise.
In the end, Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm may be Sacha Baron Cohen’s most successful film to date. While it might not be his funniest project, it’s the one that feels like the most cohesive and meaningful as a whole. Also, hot off of the success of The Trial of the Chicago Seven, it might also make him a real awards contender come 2021.
Either way, Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is an unbridled success. It pushes Cohen to the limits of his craft while making one of the silliest characters in cinematic history someone we actually want to root for. It also packs in the laughs and heart that we desperately need, now more than ever.