Borat is the brainchild of Sacha Baron Cohen, an incredibly versatile and hilarious British comedian. Sacha Baron Cohen is a shape shifter, he has created characters and has basically become those characters, Ali G and Borat are his most famous. Borat is a spin-off movie from the Borat segments we saw in his TV show, Da Ali G Show. In the short segment we had Borat, a TV journalist from Kazakhstan who is basically trying to understand the ways of American culture. The film is the exact same premise except on a feature length scale.
In this mockumentary we have Borat who travels to the USA under a grant from his government in hopes of learning ways to benefit the lifestyle in his home country of Kazakhstan. In the midst of his journey he happens to watch an episode of Baywatch and now wants to go to California to marry Pamela Anderson. That's your basic structure, but that's not what makes this movie flat out hilarious.
What makes this movie extremely funny are the various social commentaries on our culture and religion worldwide. We travel from the east coast to the west coast experiencing all of the United States' diversity. In one scene he sits down with an instructor to teach him manners while eating with upper class white Americans, and he asks if it's appropriate to bring a guest. So, he does bring a guest, and that guest is a black hooker. I mean, just watching him making fun of ourselves is absolutely hilarious. In one hilarious scene he and his producer stay at a bed and breakfast at a home owned by an old Jewish couple. In the middle of the night he spots two cockroaches and they flip out because they think the Jews changed form and are trying to kill them. They stand there jumping and screaming while throwing money at the cockroaches. In another scene he sits down with feminists and asks if teaching women would be a problem since their brains are the size of a squirrel's. It's scenes like these that make Borat incredibly smart and probably the funniest movie you have seen in a while. The film pushes the limits in terms of shock value in some places, for example, a nude wrestling match between Borat and his manager in their hotel room when Borat catches him masturbating to a picture of Pamela Anderson. So, the film has two sides, it can be at times gross out humor but not without it's biting social satire.
Larry Charles directed this brilliant comedic movie, and while the meat of the film comes from Sacha Baron Cohen's writing you cannot deny the style. Shot as low budget as possible, Larry Charles has made this his own personal style. Some of the scenes are set up so perfectly that you have to credit Charles for the direction. When Borat first arrives in New York we suddenly hear Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin", and then we begin a little reference to Midnight Cowboy as we see Borat wandering New York City. Charles is best known for directing and working on Seinfeld and he stayed with Larry David to help develop and direct some episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry Charles also has written and directed episodes of Entourage and directed the Bob Dylan starring film, Masked & Anonymous.
Sacha Baron Cohen is the star of this movie, and he is the genius who plays Borat. What many people don't know is that Sacha Baron Cohen is British and he is Jewish. He is the most versitile comedian working today in my opinion. He can transform into anybody, hide his accent, and completely embody the persona. He is Ali G, Borat, he co-starred in Talladega Nights as Will Ferrel's French nemesis, and he was the voice of King Julyan in Madagascar. The character of Borat is not offensive to the people of Kazakhstan as many people are complaining, it's a serious jab at our intolerant culture. It doesn't show his ignorance, but rather the ignorance and intolerance of the American people. He created one of the funniest characters in film history.
Borat is an incredible social satire that will have you laughing till it hurts. It is not only a brilliant satire on our culture, but a crude and hilarious way of looking at it. The only problem with this movie is that it is in fact based on a segment that was only 10 minutes of the Da Ali G Show. In ways it does start to drag and it slows down in a few places, and that's mainly because it was originally developed for television. I said the same thing about Jackass Number Two a few months ago, and that's a problem that I don't think you can fix when translating a television concept to film. Overall this is a hilarious piece of comedic filmmaking. I like! It's very niiice!
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is out November 1, 2006.