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Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Tutar And The Monkey Man"
4 stars

The problem with a number of movie comedies these days is that they start off amusingly enough (well, some of them do) and then tend to run out of steam after a while to the point where they are practically dragging themselves to the end credits. In the case of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make benefit Once glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (which will be referred to from here on in by only the first three words of that title), the unexpected and shot-in-secret sequel to the wildly popular 2006 shock comedy hit from Sacha Baron Cohen, it is perhaps only fitting that the formulation here is backwards. It starts off rather unpromisingly, spends the next hour going through a series of scenes that combine a few huge laughs with a good amount of aimlessness and then concludes with a final half-hour filled with sharp humor and genuinely outrageous moments, including one jaw-dropper that could well mark the final nail in the coffin for at least one particularly public and normally shameless public figure of note. (I will not go into this moment in any detail but, suffice it to say, if you want to experience it completely unawares, you should try to watch the film as soon as it drops on Amazon Prime this Friday because it will become the subject of much conversation once people experience it for themselves.)

As the film opens, we discover that while intrepid Kazakhstan journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Cohen) became world famous as a result of his cinematic tour of the United States 14 years earlier, he brought such shame to his homeland that he has been working on a chain gang ever since his return. Then he is called by a high-ranking government official and given an important task to fulfill—return to America with an important gift to present to Mike Pence as a bribe to encourage Donald Trump to curry favor with their leader in the same way that he does with other strong-arm types throughout the world. Before departing, Borat is reunited with his heretofore unknown 15-year-old daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova), who years to one day become like her idol, Princess Melania, and marry a rich old man who will put her in her very own fancy cage. She wants to accompany her father on his journey—he refuses but she is an enterprising sort and when he finally arrives, she is right behind him and when the original gift fails to survive the journey, it is decided that Tutar will make an acceptable substitute. (Yes, the absence of former sidekick Azamat is addressed and it is not pleasant.)

This is the fairly slender setup for a series of scenes that more or less follow the template utilized the first time around—throw Borat and/or Tutar into a seemingly ordinary situation and have them say or do outrageous things that will inspire their targets to respond with either embarrassing moments of their own or to stand their and attempt to remain calm and polite in the face of the madness unfolding before them. Tutar receives a makeover that includes a new dress, a new hairstyle and a new cage, sold to them by a man with a disturbing amount of knowledge regarding the potential uses of some of his other wares. There is a mishap involving a dessert that leads the two of them to an astonishing encounter in one of those so-called “crisis centers” that lure in women considering abortions and browbeat them into carrying to term no matter what the circumstances. Tutar makes a memorable debut at a Georgia cotillion that somehow manages to simultaneously call to mind the two most famous sequences from “Carrie.” Tutar makes certain discoveries about herself that she announces to the attendees of a Republican Women’s Club meeting. As for the mission, when the attempt to get to Pence fizzles out, Borat eventually hits upon another suitable recipient and this sets up the genuinely astonishing climactic sequence.

The problem with a lot of sequels is that they usually have little more on their mind than to score an easy payday by offering a simple rehash of the stuff that worked the first time around with only the slightest of variations. This is especially problematic when it comes to sequels to movie comedies that are content to more or less repeat the same jokes and punchlines from before—as we all know, few things in the world are funnier than a joke being told for the second time. In the case of a film like “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” this is especially difficult since the entire comedic premise—ordinary people being caught unawares by this bizarre figure exposing prejudices—would seem to be impossible to pull off again since the first film was so successful that any scene involving Borat mingling with the public would inevitably seem somewhat suspicious. Although the film does address the problem of Borat being too famous to walk the streets anonymously, requiring the purchase of a number of dubious costumes, there are still enough scenes in which Cohen appears in his familiar Borat disguise and every time that occurred, I found myself questioning just how real these encounters actually were. Of course, considering that a couple of the people who he encounters in this manner are a pair of Qanon followers, I guess their willingness to swallow his story is not that great of a stretch.

As for the scenes themselves, they are, at least for the first hour or so, a decidedly mixed bag. I must confess that while I did enjoy the first “Borat” when it came , I was not quite as sold on it as some of my colleagues—far from being the ground-breaking classic that some dubbed it, it struck me as being basically a variation on the kind of thing that Andy Kaufman was crucified for back in the day—and found that the basic joke wore out its welcome after a while, never even getting that far, comedically speaking, in such subsequent efforts as “Bruno” and “The Dictator.” This time around, too many of the scenes did not strike me as especially amusing (Borat and Tutar eat lipstick) or go on too long for their own good (especially the cotillion sequence). There are some legitimately funny/shocking moments—the crisis center scene is a cringeworthy classic and there is another funny moment during the makeover when Borat inquires how dark Tutar can tan and still attract a racist and gets an answer—but a lot of it feel like scenes that were deleted from the first one. The one thing that really saves this section of the film is the performance by Bakalova as Tutar—I have no idea who she is but her commitment to her role is equal to Cohen’s and she gets a lot of laughs throughout. (Her scene in with the Republican Women’s Club is a particular standout.)

By the time that the film enters its final half-hour or so, it finally shakes off its unevenness and begins hitting its targets with laser like precision via a trio of amazing sequences. In one, the virulently anti-Semitic Borat is reeling from the revelation (via Facebook) that the Holocaust never happened and ends up in a synagogue where he encounters survivor Judith Dim Evans, who tells him her story and assures him that it really did happen in a scene whose mix of dark humor and genuine pathos should not work at all but which somehow does. (There has been some controversy over this scene—Evans’s relatives (she died after the filming) claim that she did not consent to appear in the film while Cohen, who dedicated the film to her, has said that he did tell her ahead of time that he was playing a character. ) Then there is the scene in which he attends a “March For Our Rights Rally” in disguise and ends up leading the crowd in a song whose lyrics begin with the suggestion of injecting Obama with coronavirus and very quickly gets worse. This is the sequence that eventually turned up on the Internet in footage shot by attendees but it is still funny, not to mention more than a little terrifying to see the crowd singing along with such glee. Then there is the climax, a sequence that isn’t so much comedic as it is a straightforward documentary of the ugly ways that unchecked power and privilege can present themselves behind seemingly closed doors. Even in this debased day and age, what transpires will almost certainly go down as the coup de grace for one particular person’s career and, quite frankly, it couldn’t happen to a nicer person.

So yeah, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is basically more of the same and is not going to attract anyone who didn’t find it funny at all the first time around. For everyone else, it has moments of great hilarity mixed in with stretches of tedium before hitting its undeniably strong and scathing final stretch. However, the good stuff here is so good that it is easy to forgive the weaker moments and the fact that most of the best material occurs towards the end means that those scenes will be fresher in the mind once it ends. This does not mean that I have any burins desire to see another “Borat” movie at any point in the immediate future but if anyone wants to start a campaign to nominate it for a Nobel Peace Prize on the basis of that climactic scene, I would be more than happy to lend my name to the cause.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=33847&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/21/20 12:00:51
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User Comments

10/24/20 Trump is WINNING, Biden-sniffers are CRYING Peter Sobczynski thinks an obvious set-up will end Rudy's career LOLOL #TRUMP2020 1 stars
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  23-Oct-2020 (R)



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