FILM REVIEW: BORAT: SUBSEQUENT MOVIE FILM works best when it exposes the raging id of America’s far right wing.


Despite the notoriety of Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat & his political pranks in this sequel, Cohen’s latest really operates best in showing the rise of partisanship in the wake of the global pandemic.

It’s hard to believe, but Sasha Baron Cohen has been playing his mock-Eastern block reporter character Borat for 20 years now since Da Ali G Show first made its way to HBO in the early 2000s after a successful run on the U.K.’s Channel 4. The character became something of a cultural phenomenon after 2006’s feature-length Borat film, directed by Seinfeld alum Larry Charles, focusing on Borat’s quest to learn what makes America great and his desire to make Pamela Anderson his wife, grossed over 261 million dollars, with the Borat character’s patois and obnoxious catchphrases becoming something of an institution to this day. Since 2006, Cohen has built an audience as a performer under his own comedic skills and he and Charles collaborated on 2 further films, Bruno and The Dictator. However, for this sequel, Cohen teamed with Human Giant and Eagleheart director Jason Woliner for a return to the world of Borat and his fictional Kazakkstan. Cohen’s last improvisational project of this nature was the Showtime series Who is America? where he interacted with various Republican politicians and far-right groups in elaborate makeup disguises to show the underlying message of negativity those individuals spread. The plot for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm seems to have initially been to follow this tack as well until the Covid-19 pandemic broke out which subsequently becomes a pivotal angle in the film. That being said, while there are some moments of genuine humor, the absence of Charles’ hand at creating uncomfortable but hilarious scenes as a collaborator is felt deeply and the film tends to shine more when it is spotlighting the underlying racism of the political far right as it is emboldened during the pandemic.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm largely follows Borat 15 years after he returns to Kazakhstan. He has made the nation a joke on the world stage and is sent to hard labor and all is taken from him. This changes when the nation’s dictator pulls Borat from obscurity to give Trump a gift through an intermediary, Vice President Mike Pence, so that the leader can become a member of the club of dictators like Kim Jong Un whom Trump shows favor to on the world stage. He tries to reconnect with his family but is shunned by his sons, when he discovers he has a daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova). Along the way, Tutar also ends up in America with Borat and together they inevitably have to deliver a new gift to Pence to appease their glorious leader, namely, Tutar herself.

It goes without saying that Covid-19 heavily affected the filming of this film and its felt in the thin story structure, where Cohen has to wear more and more elaborate prosthetics throughout because he’s too well-known domestically to pull off gotcha interviews. Bakalova ends up being Borat’s proxy in many of these situations, addressing Republic women’s groups and sugar baby Instagram influencers, amongst other targets. Bakalova is a terrific find, as she manages to hang admirably in being as shameless and fearless as Cohen in many gross-out stunts and pranks. The film’s focus on fooling and pranking working-class people does remind one more of the film Bad Grandpa than it does the original Borat, but there are a few well-executed pranks that elicit genuine laughs. The film’s two most ballyhooed political pranks; one which features Cohen in an elaborate Trump disguise crashing C-PAC to address Mike Pence, and another involving Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, are both crass and revolting in different ways. But sadly, the most distasteful thing about them is that this is largely what we expect from both figures at this current stage in American politics. When Cohen enters C-PAC dressed as a klansman, it hardly raises an eyebrow amongst the GOP conservatives present in attendance.

It’s for that reason that the scenes of casual and outright racism amongst those emboldened by BLM protests after the pandemic has broken out later in the film are the real eye-opener in the film. When Cohen asked Who is America on his Showtime show, I doubt he imagined throngs of people calling for the deaths of Democrats in the crudest and most heinous of ways as they laugh and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm captures that in all its unmasked sincerity. While Borat Subsequent Moviefilm lacks the heart and sincerity of the original Borat film, it does a good job of showcasing where America could be headed if we don’t come together and unify as a people rather than follow bully politics. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm shows us the worst of our character as a people, but also that there are those who care to educate along the way. While the film’s denouement goes the way of the South Park Pandemic Special rather quickly, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm shows us that the land of the free and home of the Brave view many hold of America is rapidly being swallowed up by extremism and nationalism and that is a prospect that we have to be aware of when we vote in the next national election.

2 out of 5 stars
– Lacks the heart and innovation of the original Larry Charles Borat film, but if you’re looking for a politically tinged version of the Jackass film Bad Grandpa, you can’t really go wrong here.