October 26, 2020

In general, remakes and sequels of films are rarely ever as good, let alone better than their originals. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, newly released to stream on Amazon Prime, is no exception. Sorely lacking in both creativity and imagination, the film is a meandering reinvention of the original “mockumentary” from 2004.

Though the initial Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan from 2006 was brimming with crass, bawdy humor, it was at least original. It was shocking, but it was also new. It blended unscripted improvisation with written scenes. Not only that, but Borat himself was a new character with unseen antics, offering a sardonic insight into the subject of bigotry. Cohen spared little in the making of the original – likely never intending to return to it – and, while portraying the Kazakh reporter, he exhausted the toilet humor world of Borat. 

In its sequel, Cohen reprises his infamous and oft-imitated character as the titular Kazakh journalist. Cohen is joined by a 15-year-old daughter, Tutar (played by Maria Bakalova), replacing his original sidekick — his cameraman from the first film. Together they travel back to America in efforts to curry favor with the Trump administration by delivering a gift (Borat’s daughter) to Vice President Mike Pence. 

Say what you will of the first Borat film, but its central focus was not politics. At the time, there were plenty of outlets one could turn to for anti-Bush and anti-Republican commentary. Borat chose to ignore most of that – while throwing in a joke about Dick Cheney and adding an occasional comment about the Iraq War – and it didn’t feel as though the entire film had been crafted around the intent of hammering Bush. It was a ludicrous plot around filming a documentary about America and, along the way, falling in love with Pamela Anderson.

This is not the case for Subsequent Movefilm, which feels like a lame, half-baked idea in search of a plot. Trump is bad: that’s why this movie ostensibly needs to exist. Cohen has a clear personal feud with Trump, dating at least as far back as the early 2000s when he was doing the Ali G Show and failed to “punk” the billionaire mogul.

In America, armed with an injected dose of “Gypsy Tears,” Borat and his churlish daughter – whom Borat shipped in a wooden crate – parade the American landscape as they dupe and demean Republican voters, hospitable business owners and religious people, exploiting their rank politeness for cheap laughs.

The usual schtick employed by Sacha Baron Cohen is to hide behind the façade of a dimwitted character and naively approach unassuming store owners, employees and other unaware citizens, only to ridicule them on camera. In one scene, he approaches a hardware store manager and asks him how many tanks of propane would be required to take out a band of gypsies; in another, he’ll ask a cake shop owner to defile a cake with anti-Semitic messages.

The target of mockery is always the middle-class American, hoodwinked by a multi-millionaire in costume.

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