DIRECTED BY: Jason Woliner
STARRING: Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova
It’s been fourteen years since Borat’s movie made it to the big screens around the world, and while it’s been a big success, Kazakhstan however doesn’t see it that way. Blamed for making an embarrassment of their country, as well as their political and financial collapse, Borat was banned from reporting ever again and subjected to public humiliation and handed a life sentence of hard labour. One day Borat is given a mission to redeem himself by returning to the United States to deliver a gift to Donald Trump so that Kazakhstan can earn their respect back.
Fourteen years after the release of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen returns to reprise the role of Borat Sagdiyev for the sequel Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, also known as Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. After the release of the first film, Borat is a disgraced journalist in his homeland of Kazakhstan and is currently doing hard labour for making an embarrassment of their country. In order to redeem himself in their eyes, he’s given the mission of travelling to America to offer a gift to Donald Trump or someone close to him in a hope that such a gesture will restore Kazakhstan’s reputation in the eye’s of America and the world. However his original mission is put in jeopardy when his fifteen-year-old daughter Tutar tags along for the journey.
2006 was a simpler time when Kazakh TV reporter Borat Sagdiyev made his big screen outing, before social media and smartphones took off and became a part of everyday life, and fourteen years later Sacha Baron Cohen returns with this sequel outing which has a lot to live up to. Can Sacha recapture the spirit of the original? Can he catch out as many people as Borat as he did previously? While the essence of the original remains, Sacha realises that it is virtually impossible to redo what he done as Borat as that character has become such an international recognisable figure, he actually plays that into the story narrative in this film, as we see many people quoting catchphrases from the original. So while we see Borat take on several disguises, the film does have a secret weapon….Borat’s daughter Tutar played by Maria Bakalova. With the initial mission being that of giving a gift to Vice President Mike Pence was a genius monkey, the plan becomes to offer his young daughter instead, much to her joy as she hopes of becoming the next ‘Queen Melania’, and the journey is set to teach her ways of becoming a sophisticated, modern woman in America before being gifted to Pence. It’s with following Tutar that the film has the biggest laughs, be it speaking with an Instagram influencer on the steps that could land her a sugar daddy, to walking in on a Republican Women’s Club meeting in which they allow her to take to the podium to say a few words and soon instantly come to regret it.
While the original relied on some shock, cringe humour, there is one particular scene that captures that and the reactions of those in attendance as Borat and Tutar share a father-daughter dance at a debutante ball in Georgia that is one of the films memorable moments in which the prank and humour land in equal measure. This film doesn’t land as well with its pranks or shock humour as much as the original did, primarily because we’re so exposed to YouTube pranksters in the current landscape that now I believe we’ve just become numb to such antics. What the sequel provides however is a father-daughter narrative that actually achieves more in that front than it does the interviews/pranks, providing heart in which I doubt anybody expected and even pausing for a moment of warmth and reflection after the initial cringe when Borat meets two elderly Jewish women. We know how terrific Sacha Baron Cohen is in this format, with his highlight being singing at a anti-mask rally as ‘Country Steve’ and getting the crowd to sing-a-long, but the one that will be getting just as much recognition here is Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, who is just as fearless in how she portrays the character of Tutar and her interview sequence with Rudy Giuliani will be talked about for a long time.
Though it doesn’t have the same level of laughs as the original, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm works better than focusing on the father-daughter narrative. While Sacha Baron Cohen is still good at what he does, Maria Bakalova will be getting the praise here with her fearless performance.