Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan review by Tom Blain

Every year a movie gets hyped beyond believe. Last year it was Brokeback Mountain where two straight actors played gay cowboys, in a world of hatred and denial. This year the star seems to be the goofy guy with the Saddam Hussein mustache; Borat. Ive heard everything from Funniest Movie of the Year to Should win an Oscar for Best Actor or even Best Picture to and this is the grand prize Funniest Movie EVER!!! Unfortunately I went into Borat this weekend with weeks of discussion and over exposure. This means, I have to not only form my own opinion of the movie but I have to put that all within perspective of what the rest of the nation and world is saying about this comedy.

The movie, Borat, opens in the country of Kazakhstan (not really, they used some village in Romania). Instead of being shown as 2nd largest country to split from USSR (second to Russia) it is portrayed as a third-world nation: shacks for homes, mud streets, cars pulled by donkeys, farm animals indoors, brothers French kissing their sisters, etc. The Kazakhstan government feels that they are behind and could learn a lot from a great nation like the U.S. so they hire young, study Borat (Sasha Baron Cohen) to go to the United States and find out what makes them so good at everything (from humor to class, etc). Along the way he and his portly buddy Azmat will be filming their findings in a documentary that will be presented back to the government.

Of course the fiction sort of ends there. There is a fictional side to the movie, then there is the real side. There is no Borat or Azmat, they are fictional characters, however, everyone they talk to is real and thinks that Borat is a genuine Kazakh film maker. These people conduct their conversations with the two actors thinking they in the middle of a movie that will be shown to a government in some far off land; they definitely dont think they are going to be in a U.S. film. In character, Borat tries to kiss people in New York and gets physically threatened everytime. He talks to feminists about man-woman equality but he himself is sexist. He even travels to the South to take part in a rodeo in which he sings, not the US national anthem but some made up Kazakhstan national anthem to hundreds of angry listeners. He even gets a lesson in Southern hospitality where the *intellectuals* at the table think that despite the major cultural differences he is not far from assimilating. Along the way he and his partner Azmat separate (in the funniest part of the film), and Borat begins his journey California to marry Pamela (pronounced Pam-EL-la) Anderson-Lee-Rock.

Cohen portrays Borat as a man whose backwards culture and social politics has made him unaware of how rude, sexist, racist, and ignorant he is our culture. However, at the same time his traits are not always met with disagreement from the U.S. people involved and interviewed in the film. A lot of times people start by taking him with a grain of salt, but over time become disgusted with him and end the interview. But there is definitely a few groups who play into his trap and this is where Cohens humor and savage tricks reveal the most about the U.S., and this is where most people are praising Cohens character as genius. The rodeo scene, the frat boy scene, and the scene where he tries to buy are car are the best examples of people aligining themselves with the extreme Borat.

Some have written that they are shocked by what they see on screen in these moments. I wouldnt go so far. He reveals some unnerving things about some groups of people in the U.S. but I wouldnt go say that these findings are as shocking. Sure he gets a room full of people to applaud to the idea of seeing President (or Premier) Bush drink the blood of the Iraqis and bombing them till there is nothing left but is that surprising considering he was at a rodeo? And many people thought it very revealing what the fraternity brothers said about having sex with Russian women and how they should have slaves, but is that shocking considering these guys were piss-drunk fraternity brothers from somewhere in the South? It doesnt excuse any of these people for believing what they believe, but at the same time its not a shock that these people still exist and still think these things in the United States.

Someone needs to find the off switch on this hype machine. Dont get me wrong; Borat has its moments and is pretty damn funny from time to time, but its not the funniest movie to come along like some proclaim. If you take apart some of the things he does (taking a dump in public, saying outrageous things to strangers, chasing people) you see lots of former MTV performer Tom Green combined with the oddball character acting of Peter Sellers. Tom Greens humor like some of Cohens seems to go for gross-out and oh I cant believe he just did that humor; the kind where you maybe laughing and blocking your line of sight simultaneously. After a while the rub of his humor starts to chafe. The idea of making a fake mockumentary is somewhat original but I dont think its earth shattering. Its very similar to what he does in his own Da Ali G show, but to his credit this movie had a bit more purpose and an actual story/goal.




6 out of 10 Jackasses
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