Reviewed by: Taran Gingery
|Featuring:||Sacha Baron Cohen, Kenneth Davitian, Luenell, Pat Haggerty|
|Producer:||Monica Levinson, Dan Mazer, Jay Roach|
|Distributor:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation|
What is the best way to offend or stir up millions of people all at one time? The answer is to make a movie. Michael Moore did it with “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Mel Gibson did it with “The Passion of the Christ,” Ron Howard and company did it with “The Da Vinci Code,” and now British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has done it with his new film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Not that his film has anything to do with the real country of Kazakhstan, mind you.
The film starts in a country that is very much like Kazakhstan and is in fact referred to as Kazakhstan throughout the film, but in truth, is far from it. Rather, Borat Sagdiyev (Cohen) comes from a country that is made up of all of our preconceived ideas about what a country in that general vicinity should look like. Therefore, the kindergarteners are raised holding machine guns, and people are generally uncouth, uneducated and backwards. A rather depressing start to a comedy, I thought.
The plot kicks off once Borat leaves his home country for the “U. S. of A.” in order film a documentary about the American way of life, so as to change the way his country thinks. So, armed with nothing but his camera, his director Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), and his live chicken, Borat steps off the plane and into a strange country that will shock him with its ways, but will be even more shocked by his ways. What follows is a trek across America as Borat gradually forgets his original purpose and becomes more and more obsessed with finding and marrying (or at least carrying off) Pamela Anderson.
Along the way, Borat meets various people, including feminists, cowboys, college students, weather reporters and driving instructors, all of whom he manages to offend or causes them to embarrass themselves. It should be noted that almost no one in this film is a professional actor, and many of them were actually tricked into thinking Cohen really was Borat from Kazakhstan and were filmed without knowledge that they would be in international cinemas. Thus, most of the reactions to Borat’s behavior are genuine.
With that in mind, the movie brings to light many of America’s prejudices and problems with racism. For example, Borat manages to get three drunk college students to voice their opinions about slavery, and let’s just say that their opinions are hardly complimentary. Elsewhere, Borat inadvertently invites an African-American hooker to a posh dinner party, and many of the guests get up and leave immediately, rather than be in her company. While much of what Borat does is exaggerated purely for shock value, note especially peoples’ reactions when Borat tries to greet them in his traditional manner, which is not in any way over the top. There are many other examples in other parts of the film.
While I’m not saying that every American would react in these ways, I am saying that these things do still happen, and that we should be aware of the sad fact that racism is still alive in many parts of the country. Other messages of the film that are also worthy of attention are the importance of forgiveness and that, in the words of Borat, “if we spend too much time chasing our dreams, especially if they have plastic chests, then we miss the beauty of a world around us.”
Does this mean that we should have to wade through mountains of offensive content to be told these things? Absolutely not! And the offensive content piles high. Pretty much all of Borat’s verbal and visual gags involve masturbation, incest, defecation, explicit male and female nudity (in some photos), and homosexuality—and the list could go on. Particularly repulsive is an extended, and quite pointless, fully nude wrestling match between Borat and a very fat man, during which explicit nudity is censored, but is complete with exaggerated sex positions. As one can imagine, the profanity is pretty high, too.
The offensive content doesn’t just end with extreme crudity and grossness, though. Many people will be offended by Borat’s blatant prejudice against Jews, much of which is played for laughs. I believe that Cohen, who is himself a Jew, played these racist jokes to the extreme to show how truly pointless and stupid these prejudices are. However, that doesn’t stop them from offending. Also, equally pointless (although it does bring about Borat’s change of heart about forgiveness) is a scene in a Pentecostal church that, while actually doing a somewhat reasonable job of showing Christians praising God and going into a Spirit-filled fervor, is only played for more laughs.
Some scenes are truly funny; especially one involving a bear and an ice cream truck, and another involving a televised news report. So, if you have the stomach for the gross, crude, and profane humor, and if you aren’t easily offended by racist jokes and are willing to look past it all for some important messages that do need to be heard, than Borat is the movie for you.
If not, then look no further than to Christ Himself, who argued by His actions and words that race, sex, and nationality are not important in the eyes of the Father, and therefore should not be important to us, and he didn’t have to stoop to obscenities and a fake Russian accent to make his point, either.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme