guppy's film reviews

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Year: 2006
Director: Larry Charles
Notable Actors: Sacha Baron Cohen
Score: B+
Summary: Very over the top and sometimes cringe-inducing, but pretty funny.

If you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, some background: Borat is a personality created by English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Borat Sagdiyev originally appeared as a segment on Cohen's "Da Ali G Show"; he is a fictional TV personality from Kazakhstan, coming to the US to film a documentary on the customs of the country along with producer Azamat Bagatov. However, he gets sidetracked when he sees an episode of Baywatch on his hotel TV and falls in love with Pamela Anderson. The result is a cross-country trip to meet and wed Pamela.

Kazakhstan -- the real one -- was horrified at Cohen's portrayal of their country, and it's easy to see why, as the picture painted is pretty abhorrent. They launched a massive PR campaign to keep people from being frightened off, which is why you've been seeing TV spots about how great Kazakhstan is lately. They felt the need to counteract Cohen's depiction of their customs.

The thing about Borat is that it's filmed as a documentary. Most of the "actors" in Borat have no idea that they're acting. Cohen went completely in-character for the movie, which means that most of the others really thought he was a visiting Kazakhstani filmmaker. That act got him access to a number of places he probably wouldn't have been able to get into otherwise, from a TV studio to an Alabama dinner party.

I only have one real complaint about it. Like the original Borat segments, some of the same jokes tend to resurface. On the whole, though, it stays pretty fresh.

I don't want to go into much detail as the spontaneity is what makes the movie enjoyable; that's going to make for a short review, but I think that's preferable to spoiling chunks of the movie. So all I'll say is this: Borat is pretty good. It's not the best movie I've seen, but I was laughing pretty consistently through most of it.

One other thing I should note: I'm not really a fan of Da Ali G Show. When it's on target, I think it's very funny; it's a too inconsistent to make my A-list, though, including the Borat segments. In contrast, I found Borat consistently entertaining, so if you're not a big Ali G fan, don't let it scare you off from Borat.


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