Movie review: Borat is back in 'Subsequent Moviefilm,' but is America ready?

Brad Keefe
"Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm"

It’s been 14 years since the first “Borat” movie took America by storm and Sacha Baron Cohen used his outrageous humor to hold up a mirror to aspects of our own culture by exaggerating a foreign one.

Now it’s 2020, weeks before a hugely consequential election, and Cohen has returned to make America laugh again.

In the sequel titled “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm,” Cohen’s latest series of wild semi-documentary set pieces remains as offensive and ridiculous as ever.

The question is whether the nation has changed in that 14 years and what the experience of watching Borat be Borat is like now.

First, a little light setup without spoilers, because much of the enjoyment comes in laughing at ridiculous situations that shouldn’t be spoiled. Then we’ll get to that scene you may have heard about in the news this week…

Get movie reviews delivered to your inbox every Friday: Sign up for our daily newsletter

Borat Sagdiyev (Baron Cohen) is on a mission to restore his reputation 14 years after the first movie made him an outcast in his native Kazakhstan. His country’s premiere offers him an opportunity at redemption. Borat must travel to America to present a gift to its “vice premiere” Mike Pence.

Through a series of misadventures, Borat is joined by daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova), who is becoming the Kazak equivalent of an “old maid” for not being married yet … at the age of 15.

Like the original, the film unfolds in a combination of scripted scenes to tie a narrative around the candid stunts. In many ways, this sequel to “Borat” is exactly what you'd expect. It’s a Borat movie. You know what that means.

What you probably were not expecting is a surprisingly sweet and sentimental story that actually touches on the father-daughter relationship as Tutar is awakened to basic feminist ideas.

Coming from an exaggerated culture that treats women like property, the idea of a young woman being able to carve out her own station in life is revelatory, and newcomer Bakalova is a glorious discovery, both comedically and in the more tender moments.

“Subsequent Moviefilm” also is more sharp towards the current political climate. If the first film unveiled the sort of casual racism people revealed under Borat’s cultural prompts, this one touches on everything from the pandemic, white nationalism and foreign influence in our government.

Which brings me to the already infamous Rudy Giuliani scene.

When I first screened the movie on Tuesday night (under a strict embargo), I sat upright in my seat during that scene and thought, uh, this is gonna be news tomorrow.

What that initial Twitter response got wrong: The character portrayed by Bakalova is never presented to Giuliani as being 15 years old.

But Giuliani’s claims that he didn’t do anything inappropriate and headed off the prank before he did anything damaging? I know there’s selective editing, but I’ll let you watch and decide for yourself.

Apart from Giuliani being the embodiment of cringe throughout the scene, it’s worth taking a second to ask, if a comedian could get this footage of the president’s lawyer, what sort of incrimination could a foreign actor get? How dumb can this man be?

Find out for yourself this weekend on Amazon Prime.

“Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm”

Now streaming on Amazon Prime
4 stars out of 5