Written by: Peter Baynham, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jena Friedman, Anthony Hines, Lee Kern, Dan Mazer, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Swimer
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Nina Pedrad, Dan Swimer
When you nail a concept so well the first time around, the fears of a second go-around rightfully should cause some concern because some things just cannot be replicated. However, with enough difference and a whole new subject matter to dip into Borat Subsequent Moviefilm comes right back with a story more centered on narrative rather than pure shock value.
Imprisoned for his first venture to the United States, Borat Margaret Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) has now been entrusted with legitimizing Kazakhstan on the world stage by presenting a monkey to United States Vice-President, Mike Pence. When he arrives, he finds that his daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova) stowed away hoping to spend some time with her father.
Following the breakout hit of Borat, this sequel has an uphill climb to capture the imagination and trick people the same way the first managed to do. With people knowing the character from the success of the first film, different measures became necessary to capture the wildly candid moments with people. The film smartly makes the point immediately from when Borat lands in the United States. As he walks in the streets, people immediately recognize him and run up asking for an autograph. Creativity becomes the key and all of the elaborate costumes the titular character puts on make it well worth the ridiculousness.
Narratively, this film has more substance and therefore more scripted material between Borat and his daughter Tutar. As one knows from spending time with Borat, he has a very regressive view of women and daughters along with their place in society. At first, he puts Tutar in the same category as livestock if it gives any indication. The scenes played out between the two show the standards of life his daughter has to follow, including a whole handbook of what girls are allowed to do under the punishment of the law. All of it obviously hinges on ridiculousness but it fits the character and the type of humor that works. The scripted segments of the feature allow for some emotional progression to occur between Borat and his daughter but it takes away from the biting nature of the story.
Part of this switch occurs due to the popularity of the character, of course, with people unwilling to be duped like the individuals in the first film. Some of the segments appear to have some candid moments but do not have the same raw and honest appeal. Regardless, it still creates some hilarious moments where Borat says his very regressive beliefs, and people react to it as any sane person would. With more of a narrative driving the feature, the comedy still works but it gets fairly conventional as the story progresses when it comes to the relationship between him and his daughter. It certainly has a glowing message and a moment of growth, but it felt disjointed in moments with the absurdist humor employed in the feature.
Sacha Baron Cohen entered the filmmaking process of this one with a vision to get right at the heart of the political landscape of 2020. From COVID-19 to the Trump administration, he goes directly for the jugular by filming different scenes with people related to these issues in some incredibly unsettling ways. The way this man can navigate around these unknowing people without cracking a smile or breaking down in laughter shows some incredible skill along with Maria Bakalova. She matched up incredibly well with Baron Cohen to take all of those scenes and balance both the narrative growth of her character along with the candid moments she must take on. The most jaw-dropping one being the incident in the hotel when she interacts with a notable person in name only, not on a level of respect, of course. Bakalova impresses with this performance and steps right up to the absurdist humor this type of movie calls for.
Of all the things 2020 needed, no one could have guessed Borat would have made an appearance and the world is better for it. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm brings all of the zaniness one should be accustomed to with this character and adds a layer of story under it. While hampering the momentum at times, it still comes together to display a film with so many biting comedic moments and a heartwarming element as well. Thoroughly enjoyable and showing once again the fearless creative pursuit of Sacha Baron Cohen.