2007-02-27 10:59

Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a Kazakhstani journalist recording a documentary about the culture and customs of American people. While in his hotel room in New York, he sees an episode of Baywatch, and immediately falls in love with Pamela Anderson. With his producer, Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), he travels across the USA to California, where he hopes to marry Anderson. Along the way he continues to record his documentary. He attends a rodeo and a Pentecostal revival meeting, meets feminists, drunken frat boys and gay pride marchers, among many others. When he arrives in California, he finds out that Pamela Anderson will be having an autograph signing session at a Virgin Megastore. Borat seizes the opportunity to meet the object of his affections and propose marriage to her, Kazakhstani style.


Comedy is perhaps the most unpredictable genre. While brilliance often goes unrewarded, unadulterated crap will rise to undeserved levels of acclaim, elevating its barely talented makers to stardom status, causing otherwise rational people to think that they have a modicum of talent. Think Leon Schuster, who has practically turned cynical, insidious racism into an art form. Think Jim Carrey, a gurning fartsmith now almost unanimously hailed as a comedic genius. Think the aptly named Jackass, who don’t even bother with humour at all.

Now think Sacha Baron Cohen, an undoubtedly talented comedian, who has had to produce the most tasteless garbage of his career to score his biggest hit. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, earned $26.4 million in its opening weekend in the US and Canada, the highest in history for a film showing at fewer than 1,000 cinemas.

Why? Maybe Borat is such a hit because despite its frequent dips into scatological grotesqueries, it’s actually quite an innocuous little monster. Baron Cohen had a great opportunity to make something as challenging as it is entertaining; to expose the bigotry, jingoism and plain stupidity that is such an integral part of the American cultural landscape. Instead, he chooses to wallow in schoolboy humour and his own latent narcissism.

Take, for example, the scene in which he interviews the owner of an antique shop specialising in Confederate memorabilia. Does he take advantage of this politically charged situation? Does he even mention slavery, secession or the Civil War? Of course not. Instead, he chooses to act clumsy and “accidentally” breaks a few of the valuables. Here, Baron Cohen is like a sad, older version of Punk’d, only more childish.

Similarly, he either ignores or avoids great opportunities while talking to a homophobic cowboy, misogynistic fraternity boys and insane born-again Pentecostals who think that shaking spastically while burbling gibberish is proof that the planet is 6,000 years old.

In other scenes, he’s just plain cruel. What is the point of victimising an elderly couple running a bed & breakfast? Or disrupting a socialite’s dinner party? This candid camera-style cruelty is anti-comedy, usually performed by the cynical and talentless for the stupid and humourless. Having a sense of humour means being able to laugh at yourself, not at the misfortunes of others.

Perhaps Borat is such a success because it fails to do what it pretends to be doing, but still manages to dupe the audience into thinking they’re watching something edgy and controversial. Baron Cohen is either unwilling or unable to produce meaningful, socially relevant comedy, despite his brilliant inventions. Both Borat and Ali G are masterful conceits which only rarely and fleetingly reach their full potential. It’s a terrible waste.

Yes, there are a few laughs to be had – but only a few. Baron Cohen’s characters were made for TV, and in Borat, it certainly shows. As a result, the film feels a lot longer than just 84 minutes. But the bad taste will linger for far longer.

- Chris McEvoy
A vacuous, nihilistic film, wallowing in scatology and cruel practical jokes. No wonder America loves it.

James Saunders 2006/11/17 8:06 AM
Borat An incredibly hilarious movie, that breaks away from the norm and if taken into context is really enjoyable. Obviously if one is expecting it to be socially relevant, it would not be enjoyable. Baron Cohen is a comic genius.
Jon 2006/11/17 8:50 AM
Borat Chris McEvoy - get a life mate. Try and live a little you are so far up your own butt you cannot see the light of day.
Chris 2006/11/17 9:23 AM
Borat Agreed 100%, Sacha should stick to TV - much 'funnier' in smaller doses.
Toy 2006/11/17 9:31 AM
Afrikanerbul 2006/11/17 10:04 AM
Borat Why can't we have comedy for dumb people? I mean I can't stand the Schuster's toilet humourand anal fixation but Cohen? Plain anti-arty farty good sh!t.
Afrikanerbul 2006/11/17 10:06 AM
Borat Why can't we have comedy for dumb people? I mean I can't stand the Schuster toilet humour and anal fixation. But Cohen? Plain anti-arty farty good sh!t.
coenraad 2006/11/17 10:17 AM
Borat If you like South Park the Farrelly Brothers you will love this film. Old Chris is obviously an failed writer/director or even an actor with an axe to grind. The movie is funny an shows the audience the double standards of the average American. There is to many movies out there wallowing in their own self importance. The movie is entertaining and a laugh-a-thon.
chicita 2006/11/17 12:12 PM
Borat Maybe i'ts just "schoolboy humour" but it's still funny. Why should everything be about serious issues and controversial? We also need a chance to relax and just laugh without having to feel bad... I think Borat is hilarious.
Lucas 2006/11/17 12:55 PM
Boron Eeeyes, thees thing, thees movie flik, she ess making the stoopeed peoples looking very stoopid, but me, eye em cleva so I em not looking the stoopeed one, becuase why, because I am in the gov-moont end I em cleva. You see! and you know, theezs movie film, she ees so mush of funnee
Jean 2006/11/17 1:58 PM
Wow... How disappointing I was really looking forward to this one. The trailer was funny. Oh no oh no oh no. I hope you're wrong. I really do.
Dada 2006/11/17 3:19 PM
Borat I is age too and half and see funny man with hairy lip on TV. I want watch but mommy tell only age 3 can see film.I now sad and go make poo in nappy and go kiss my sister and piss on Chris
James 2006/11/17 3:52 PM
Borat Really worthwhile movie and incredibly funny but taste of Chris McEvoy's poor and cynical review still lingers. What were you expecting to see Chris? It is not pretending to be Brokeback Mountain or Titanic
Nic 2006/11/17 3:55 PM
Borat Five Star Movie! Comical genius. Get a sence of humour Chis McEvoy and then review it again.
Gatiep 2006/11/17 3:59 PM
Borat Wow, I really enjoyed Borat tremendously. (5\5) Chris, were you on antidepressants whilst reviewing this movie?
Mrs Cohen 2006/11/17 4:03 PM
Borat i am so proud of my son's movie and the lovely work that he is doing by promoting that nice Kazakhstani country
JC 2006/11/17 4:06 PM
Borat Oustanding movie, a comical genius! Chris McEvoy seems to contradict himself a little. After all, Chris once said :"I don't think there could be humour without the cruel side. A guy getting a pie in his face is funny, but a blind epileptic trying to find his way through a storm drain - now that's hilarious." ( Are you a little jealous Chris?
AJ 2006/11/17 4:09 PM
Borat This movie is brilliant. The only people who haven't found it funny so far are prudes and humourless 'conservatives' who are unable to laugh at themselves. Which are you?
Borat Sagdiyev 2006/11/17 4:11 PM
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhastan. Yes, it is niice!
Borat Sagdiyev 2006/11/17 4:16 PM
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhastan Jagshemash, I like my movie! Do you like it?
anti borat 2006/11/17 4:24 PM
Borat what a load of crap,typical american trailer toilet trash
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