Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Early Reviews 

‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’: Early Reviews

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Amazon Studios

The biting satire, whose full title is Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, plays on Amazon Prime on October 23, ahead of the 2020 election.

John DeFore in the Hollywood Reporter says the sequel “falls short of its imperfect but zeitgeist-grabbing 2006 predecessor in several ways,” while not putting the blame on director Jason Woliner. “The easiest (but incomplete) answer is that the George W. Bush era needed a Borat, and the Trump years make him painfully redundant.”

DeFore also says Cohen’s fresh character in Borat is found wanting and waning with the new reiteration: “Cohen’s shtick is so famous now that it’s hard to imagine him really finding this many targets who aren’t in on the joke. Even when he’s dressed as someone other than Borat — as he often is here, and as he was in the frustrating Showtime series Who Is America? — it’s hard to concentrate on scenes instead of focusing on what kind of manipulation was required to make the dupes play along, and how much has been distorted by editing.”

Other critics see the Cohen’s use of prosthetics and pranking with his varied onscreen personas over the years now having dulled his comic dagger in the Borat sequel. “The shock of the new is gone, and so the shock generally. The routine is more familiar and the semi-staged stunts – which faintly undermine the credibility of all but the most spectacular moments – are more conspicuous,” Peter Bradshaw writes in The Guardian.

Jake Coyle at Associated Press contends Cohen no longer has the “free rein” he enjoyed in the 2006 Borat to shock and awe, not least because of the pandemic, but still has more than enough to say about America’s dark underbelly with his latest look. “His comedy revealed a more disturbing, hidden America that was often happy to go along with Baron Cohen’s gonzo act. Fourteen years later, those prejudices aren’t so hard to find. Borat fits right in,” Coyle writes.

But the seeing Cohen’s fictional Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev tour conservative America, and even confront Republican politicians, still offers material to mine for laughs and biting political commentary on our times. “That finale in a hotel suite, when Borat and his teenage daughter Tutar confront a certain very prominent ex-politician who appears on the verge of a serious indiscretion … well, that is an amazing coup,” Bradshaw says as he teases a scene with Rudy Giuliani confronting a teenage journalist.

Michael O’Sullivan in The Washington Post says the Borat sequel will earn laughs and moans from people looking to escape the daily drumbeat of 2020 election headlines. “It’s a comedy of outrage and horror that elicits laughter not as a cure for what ails us, or even a temporary balm, but a close cousin of the feeling you get — sharp pain followed by relief — when a Band-Aid has been ripped off an open wound,” he writes.

And Sonya Saraiya in Vanity Fair welcomes Cohen’s sidekick in his Borat sequel being his fictional daughter Tutar, played by Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, for tempering the misogyny in the original mockumentary and stealing the spotlight in the sequel. “Bakalova has the same nerves of steel as Cohen, seemingly incapable of embarrassment or shame. Together the duo attempt to find Pence and/or other members of the Trump administration, even as the coronavirus pandemic begins to sweep across America,” she writes.

Other critics argue that, while Cohen’s Borat was ripe for George W. Bush’s America in 2006, Bakalova’s Tutar performance captures the bizarreness of Trump’s America. “Bakalova scores some of the movie’s most outrageous moments, from a grotesque period gag at a debutante ball to a monologue about masturbation delivered to a terrified meeting of older women Republicans. Their shock is our subversive delight: the opportunity to see a restrictive world forced to confront its boundaries, and unable to process their existence,” writes Eric Kohn in Indiewire.

But however much Sagdiyev and Tutar leave audiences deeply uncomfortable and target prey on screen awkward and embarrassed, Cohen’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm doesn’t live up to the original 2006 box office winner, says BBC News reviewer Nicholas Barber. “The pranks tend to be longer and baggier, more audacious than funny, and there is nothing to match the gross-out brilliance of the naked wrestling, or the magnificent silliness of keeping a bear in the back of an ice cream van. But be patient: the last half hour of Subsequent Moviefilm has enough fine material to make it all worthwhile,” Barber writes.

That said, critics do see value in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm being rushed out ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election for Cohen’s latest close-up of Conservative America. “There is plenty of political outrage here, too, if that’s what you’re looking for — and let’s face it, it is,” Bilge Ebiri writes in Vulture.

Brian Truitt at USA Today, while seeing Cohen’s latest journey to America as Borat, and with a teenage daughter at his side, “as fleetingly funny,” does see consolation in the film’s  unsuspecting participants being in Trump’s inner circle: “At least Cohen is aiming really high this time, right at folks who work in the White House.”