Offensive "Borat" Addresses Stereotypes, Reveals Prejudices
- Thursday, March 08, 2007
Release Date: March 6, 2007
Rating: R (for graphic nudity, pervasive crude and sexual humor, profanity)
Run Time: 84 min.
Director: Larry Charles
Actors: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Luenell, Pamela Anderson
WARNING: The following review contains discussion of mature subject matter that is not suitable for young readers.
British actor Sacha Baron Cohen, who first created the character of “Borat” for his comedy “Da Ali G Show,” has now reprised and expanded that role with this box office and critically-acclaimed hit comedy. Although few of the scenarios are original (some are lifted straight from the show), Cohen and fellow screenwriters Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer take things to a new extreme here. Whether you appreciate the gags, however, will depend entirely upon your sense of humor.
We first meet Borat Sagdiyev (Cohen) in his native village in Kazakhstan, where he introduces us to the town rapist (“Naughty! Naughty!”), the town mechanic “and abortionist” and various family members, including a foul-mouthed mother and his sister (“Fourth-ranked prostitute in country!”) whom he kisses passionately.
Actually filmed in a Romanian village, Borat’s surroundings are intended to confirm every cliché Westerners hold about Eastern Europe. Livestock run wild and immorality abounds. People live in grimy shacks and are extremely racist. This is demonstrated by the annual Running of the Jew, where a paper-Mache Jewish character runs through the streets to mockery and intense abuse. After his wife, “Mrs. Jew,” lays an egg, the villagers shout that it must be killed.
Here we see the beginnings of the film’s strategy. Although shocking, Cohen, who is an observant Jew, is attempting to mock stereotypes, culturalism and racism by transforming himself into the very clichés that we both dread and fall prey to. He continues this when he travels to the “U.S. and A.” to make a documentary about American culture.
Arriving in New York with his producer, Azamat (Ken Davitian), Borat mistakes an elevator for his hotel room then washes his face in the hotel toilet. He then discovers Pamela Anderson while watching reruns of “Baywatch” – and proceeds to masturbate every time he sees her on TV (which is a lot). Before leaving New York, Borat meets with a comedy coach, where he struggles to understand Americanisms, and a group of feminists, which he repeatedly insults.
Borat sets off for California, in order to persuade Anderson to become his bride. Worst case scenario, he figures, he’ll just “make sexy” with her. Borat likes to “make sexy,” by the way. During his cross-country trip, we are treated to a mixture of staged situations and mock interviews, during which Cohen impersonates Borat (as he did in all the media interviews, prior to the film’s release), making participants believe they are actually being interviewed for a foreign documentary. Suffice to say, this has triggered more than a little outrage and even a few lawsuits. Political incorrectness is the watchword, however, and Borat hits it on every level. The only groups he does not insult – interestingly enough – are Latinos and Muslims.
When Borat buys his car (an ice cream truck), he asks the salesman how fast he needs to go to kill a group of “gypsies,” to which the salesman replies, “35 to 40 miles per hour.” He takes driving lessons while sipping on a liquor bottle and leering and shouting at female drivers. He gets drunk with fraternity boys from South Carolina, who spew racism and misogyny.
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