Borat (***½)

Posted on November 4th, 2006 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Holy sacred cow, what a hilarious movie! I’ve never seen Da Ali G Show nor the character of Borat created by Sacha Baron Cohen (other than in all the ads for this film). We went to go see it tonight based on the universally positive reviews, coupled with the hilarity of the clips in the ads and talk shows, and the film definitely lived up to, and even exceeded, our expectations. To put it into context, we walked out of this movie and I immediately got on the phone with my friend Bruce to tell him to go see this film. I can’t remember the last time I did that, if ever, and Bruce is my movie-watching-hermano to whom I would NOT make such a recommendation lightly.

Borat (the film) is smartly dumb and dumbly smart, whereas Borat (the character) is a Frankenstein’s monster amalgamation of Christianity, Islam, Judaism (…NOT!), Eurasian, nomad, disco dancer, sex machine, journalist, pilgrim, and tabula rasa. The parts don’t fit together well, but through the sheer force of his laserlike dumbness, Borat manages to orchestrate his many facets into a compellingly hilarious and sympathetic whole.

I’m struggling in this review not to give away plot points and gags, as they should be experienced without preamble, but suffice it to say that I don’t believe there is a single major taboo that is not broken, nor a single demographic group that is not mocked in this film. And mocked effectively. Borat holds a mirror up to “America”, to our faults and to our greatness, and the dissection is as painful to watch as it is revelatory and uproarious. The theater literally screamed with laughter during the vast majority of the film, and there were times when I had to simply look away as my sensibilities couldn’t take any more, and I’m a pretty jaded, worldly, not-easily-offended movie-goer.

Almost lost in the film is the absolutely pitch-perfect portrayal of Borat by Cohen. Cohen reaches Spinal Tap levels of believability, where you easily forget that what you are seeing is a double fake-out…a mock documentary about a completely fictional character. When Borat and his producer scream heated gibberish at each other, I don’t know what they are saying, but I’m sure it has nothing to do with what’s being portrayed by the English subtitles, and it’s probably some amalgamation of nonsense and Hebrew (Cohen is Jewish), but it sure *sounds* like what I, as an ignorant American, would expect a Kazakstani to sound like.

Just to be clear about this review and film, I’m not the arrested-adolescent type who laughs at crude jokes simply because I find them funny. Borat is the offensive joke as an art form and as social commentary. If you go see this film, and you should, be prepared to be horrified and disgusted and to laugh yourself to tears and to walk out wiping your eyes and having conversations about human nature, bigotry, international relations, and poop.

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