Film Review: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

STUDIO: Amazon Studios | DIRECTOR: Jason Woliner | CAST: Sacha Baron Cohen, Irina Novak
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 23, 2020
SPECS: R | 95 min. | Comedy

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2

It’s been 14 years since we last saw intrepid Kazakhstani news reporter Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) on a movie screen. Since then, he has been stuck in prison for all the grief and negative attention he brought to his native country from his hit film, 2006’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

Upon release from jail, Borat ventures back to the United States—aka “Yankee Land”– on a new mission. And this time he’s joined by his daughter Sandra Jessica Parker Sagdiyev (Irina Nowak), a spunky teenager whose goal is to marry one of the country’s leading politicians and live life happily ever after just like “Princess Melania” (Trump).

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is a tough film to review because deeper dives into the plot or explanation of specific scenes will spoil the film’s surprises. But it is safe to say that, like the original, this is a fish-out-of-water movie in which the mustachioed, grey-suited Borat and his downtrodden daughter are plunged smack dab into the alien culture that is the United States of 2020. They don’t quite understand the country, its culture and its people’s behavior, leading to responses of outrage from the pair and those who encounter them.  The audience response will be measured by the level in which they are offended by the outrageous antics they witness.

An added element to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is the fact that Borat and Sandra’s adventures take place in the recent past, where people aren’t sure what to make of COVID-19 yet, while campaigning for a presidential election brews outside their doors.  The pandemic and the way people react to it comprise some of the key moments in the film, wherein some of the scenes of people social distancing and ignoring the wearing of masks are downright cringeworthy.

As for the politics, it’s should come as little surprise that the comic punks several Republican politicians, and that he clearly has no fondness for the current U.S. president nor most of his policies. President Trump and his supporters will likely find little to laugh at here and, in a few instances, will likely be outraged.

Cohen, who also co-produced and sings the closing song, worked on the script with ten credited writers, most of them past collaborators. But like the first Borat (which was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award), there’s a lot of improvisation going on in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. It’s in the interaction with real people that Cohen and his co-star—a mysterious actress billed as Irina Novak but who is rumored to be Bulgarian-born actress Maria Bakalova—are at the top of their games eliciting responses of indignation or, even more troubling, no response at all.

This director this time out is Jason Woliner, whose credits include the TV shows The Last Man on Earth and Parks and Recreation. Like its predecessor, the new film is a little rough around the edges, all the better to ape the mockumentary mold the project is striving for. Woliner and his writers also add a little sensitivity to the proceedings, stopping occasionally to recognize the father-daughter relationship between Borat and Sandra, as warped as it may seem throughout.

What isn’t sensitive, however, is the skewering Cohen and company dish out to innocent participants who come in contact with Borat and Sandra, whether it be a couple of good ol’ boy conspiracy theorists, a plastic surgeon or a group of conservative women attending a meeting at the annual CPAC convention. Thanks in part to the popularity of the original film, the character Borat—and Cohen himself—is forced to don different disguises in fear he may be recognized in their travels. And like the first film, this one has already faced some legal issues from unsuspecting people targeted by Cohen and company. More legal trouble is likely on the way.

Once again, Cohen takes a gleeful approach to his mockery from the get-go with his take-no-prisoners approach and it’s obvious there will be scores offended by his antics. But those who aren’t will be in for splendidly wicked and politically pointed time.

Or as Borat Sagdiyev would say, “Woo we wow-wow! Very nice!”

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.