After 2006’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, we find that Borat had been sentenced to life in a gulag for bringing shame to Kazakhstan. Yet, Fourteen years later, we discover that he has now been released with a new mission. In a bid to restore Kazakhstan’s tarnished reputation, he must deliver the Kazakh Minister of Culture aka Johnny the Monkey to President Donald Trump. However, things don’t go to plan. When he goes to pick up Johnny The Monkey it turns that his feral daughter Tutar (as played by Maria Bakalova) has smuggled herself inside his crate and eaten Johnny during their transit. With no time, no monkey and no hope of returning home, how will Borat ever bring respect to the once glorious nation of Kazakhstan?
…to describe Borat Subsequent Moviefilm as being “on the zeitgeist” would be to undercook what looks like an oven-ready success.
When 2006’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan arrived, Sacha Baron Cohen’s alter ego indelibly stained the world’s consciousness. The hapless Kazakhstani reported who managed to visit more fallout on the American psyche than a first strike ever could, his appearance and catchphrases have unarguably entered the modern lexicon. So, how could such a memorable character ever come back for a sequel and not be recognised? And yet returning now after a fourteen-year break, with first-time director Jason Woliner, Sacha Baron Cohen has found many ways to redress, retool and re-arm in full readiness for this year’s US election.
First of these, is to actually embrace a coherent storyline. Whereas Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan felt like a chance drive into the heart of America, with Borat aiming to marry Baywatch beauty, Pamela Anderson, this sequel has proper dramatic chops and payoffs to offer – all of which are catalysed by the presence of Maria Bakalova as Tutar, Borat’s teenage daughter. Fresh out of drama school, she is both the discovery and the heart of this movie. Whether it’s her pining for a golden cage “like Melania Trump’s” to live in, or trashing a debutante ball with a period-strained ballgown, all of the breath-stealing moments belong to her. Like when Charlize’s Theron’s Furisoa stole Fury Road from Mad Max, the same happens here. Able to go where Borat cannot, able to approach subjects that Borat cannot, Bakalova’s Tutar becomes the weapon that neither Rudy Giuliani nor Trump’s America ever saw coming.
So, whilst Sach Baron Cohen’s Borat still walks like a man dashing to the toilet, to describe Borat Subsequent Moviefilm as being “on the zeitgeist” would be to undercook what looks like an oven-ready success. Taking in sexism, racism, homophobia, the patriarchy, the #metoo movement, incels, the coronavirus and much, much more, if Borat’s latest movie was any more “on point” you’d have to call it science fiction – such is its head start on the current news cycle.
Smart, funny and surprisingly erudite when it allows itself to be, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is that modern-day rarity of a distant franchise that returns and actually delivers the goods. -Is it better than Borat? No, but how could it ever be? -Is it equal to Borat for vastly different reasons?
It’s nice. It’s one seriously niiiice sequel.