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Movie Review: Borat

Directed by Larry Charles
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, and Dan Mazer from a story by Cohen, Hines, Baynham, and Todd Phillips

By now, you’ve probably heard a lot about Borat and his creator Sacha Baron Cohen, who stole Talladega Nights from Will Ferrell in every scene he was in. Cohen, the man behind HBO’s Da Ali G Show, which begat the sexist, racist, ignorant Borat, shines in what amounts to a made-up character in a true documentary.

Borat Sagdiyev is coming to America as a reporter from his native Kazakhstan, to see how Americans live and think, all in the name of making the little-known country more like the U.S. Of course, some of the humor, controversy, and shock of the movie comes from the fact that Borat discovers that his sexism, racism, and ignorance is on par with many Americans. This is where the movie has been getting its early critical acclaim; through absolutely no extra effort or Michael Moore pushiness, the film exposes this America in a way not seen unless you regularly attend Klan rallies. People speak to the character like they’re in their own living room.

However, Borat is not going to make money based on its political expose. It’s going to make money because it’s often very funny. With the innocence of the characters Beavis and Butthead, or the South Park kids, driven by a master puppeteer who is anything but innocent, Borat’s means-no-harm mischief is the selling point. Whether he gets kicked out of a situation or is embraced, the results are often hilarious, with some misses here and there but those are few.

And, much like Ross McElwee’s documentary Sherman’s March, in which McElwee’s side goal is to meet Burt Reynolds, Borat is driven by the need to meet Pamela Anderson. And believe me, when he meets her, the ensuing laughs will sell this picture on its own.

One thing that does bother me about Borat is that much of the picture takes place in the South and of course, this is where the picture finds all the rednecks of the world. And in some ways, this is ignorant in itself. The film would not be a comedy if it didn’t find these “characters,” so therefore it must find them. If it found the people I know and love from the area, there wouldn’t be much to expose. It’s a minor quibble for a comedy, trying to find the funny and cut out the not funny, but the South will continue to have the appearance of completely, totally racist and sexist with the select images.

Again, minor quibbles–this isn’t that kind of movie, we’re here to laugh, and Borat is the funniest movie of the year so far, so enjoy.


Comment from Mike
Time: November 3, 2006, 7:54 pm

This is a movie I plan to see very soon, and I only get to the theater once or twice a year. And, as you know, there are no idiots to be found in the North. None at all.

Comment from The Projectionist
Time: November 4, 2006, 1:03 am

I will concede that the northern people depicted, especially New York, are shown in the light of highly rude, militant people (also not 100% true), but yeah, the dumbness of southerners continues unchallenged in this flick. Stereotypes work for and against this movie.

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