Lost and Found in Translation

Borat!

Sacha Baron Cohen and Ken Davitian star in a film
written by Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer, and Todd
Phillips and directed by Larry Charles.

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

Infamous right out of the box, Borat! dares to ask the
cinematic question: If the world is careening toward oblivion, why
not go down laughing? Shameless provocateur Sacha Baron Cohen’s
capital-H hilarious film comes out at a time when we desperately
need some blows to the temple of our over-serious outlook as a
species. Borat! (full title, Borat!: Cultural
Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of
Kazakhstan
) is the politically incorrect, low-humor, feel-good
hit of the season.

Kazakhstan is the biggest butt of the film’s complex joke. Borat
is a bungling but determined Kazakh TV journalist sent to America
to learn of its ways. In a Christopher Guest-like mockumentary
style, Borat — the irrepressible and hypnotically in-character
Sacha Baron Cohen — is seen in zany encounters with Americans. But
Americans generally don’t seem amused by his outlandishness, which
then amps up the humor content.

With his corpulent producer, Borat sets out, with wide eyes,
diaper-like chones, and signature moustache to discover
America. They buy an old ice cream truck and hit the road west,
like the pioneers, but armed with the power of cluelessness. Along
the way, Borat manages to slaughter the sacred cow, buy a pet bear,
and casually heap satirical scorn upon Jews, Southerners, gays,
feminists, African-Americans, and of course, Kazakhs (curiously,
Pentecostal tent-brand Christianity comes away relatively
unscathed). Borat! is a fairly equal-opportunity
offense-giver of a film, which, of course, helps soften the blows
and keep it all in the realm of hyper-levity.

We love Borat because he’s seemingly guileless in his pursuit of
knowledge, and also his pursuit of Pamela Anderson, who he sees in
a red swimsuit on an N.Y.C. television and suddenly knows his
mission is to go to California and marry her. When Anderson, gamely
part of the script, expresses other ideas at a book-signing, Borat
pleads, “But I’ll give you your own plow!” The film is well-stocked
with lines qualifying as vernacular in the making, including the
term “make sexy time” (i.e. having sex) or “having a romance
explosion on her stomach,” and a reference to our supreme leader as
“the mighty warlord, Premier Bush.”

With this wild film, Cohen/Borat has upped the ante of satire to
the point where the air gets thin from too much convulsive
laughter. Recriminations and real life uproar can be dealt with
later.

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