Review by Mark Walters


A year or so ago my friend Andy Chang introduced me to Ali G. Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen had created this character, who was a white British man trying desperately hard to be like a hip black guy. Ali G managed to get interviews with major American personalities, whether political or other respected professions. You could almost equate him to a variant of Tom Green for British audiences. The character became immensely popular in the UK, and it wasn't long before HBO premiered DA ALI G SHOW, which was headlined by (you guessed it) Ali G. But Cohen had done something very smart. Though Ali G was a funny character, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. So the show was peppered with spontaneous segments featuring two other characters. The first was Borat, a reporter from Kazakhstan, who's cultural differences made for very funny laughs, especially when he conducts interviews with Americans. The second was Bruno, a fashion reporter from Germany, who is perhaps the most flamboyant character Cohen has created yet. Now while Ali G was the most high profile of Sacha's personas, Borat quickly developed a cult following with fans, and some actually found those segments the most amusing and memorable during the show. After a lackluster Ali G movie was made, and quickly forgotten, the only place to go next was Borat. And so a new movie was made, featuring that character instead, and it's already generated a huge amount of buzz.

BORAT opens by introducing audiences to Borat Sagdiyev (Cohen), a Kazakhstan reporter who has been asked by his country to travel to America and explore the culture. Before leaving, he introduces the various people in his village, including his prostitute sister, his surly neighbor, and his rather angry wife. We also see details of his living quarters, which he shares with animals. But this movie is about going to America, so the film wastes no time getting things rolling. Borat and his producer Azamat (Ken Davitian) head to New York, where he begins to conduct interviews and meet the people. But shortly after arriving, during a night alone in the hotel, Borat stumbles across an episode of BAYWATCH while channel surfing, and becomes instantly fascinated with Pamela Anderson. During an interview with a frustrated feminist group, he learns that Pam lives in L.A., and decides to go looking for her.  With limited funds available, he and Azamat procure an old ice cream truck and hit the road, which of course leads to some wacky hi-jinks in every city they stop through. Along the way Borat experiences several different cultures of America, and begins to see just how out of place he really is.

While you could consider this a road trip movie of sorts, BORAT is essentially just a shockingly outrageous comedy. It's like watching a documentary of a complete idiot, and seeing how people uncomfortably react to him. You have to wonder how many of the interviewees Borat encounters have any inclination that they're being duped. And there aren't just interview scenarios, we also see Borat riding the subway, or even trying to learn some gangsta lingo from a group of young black men. So do any of these people know what's really going on? It appears they don't, but you know they had to sign a release form at some point, or else the footage wouldn't have been used. Cohen appeared once as himself on David Letterman, and Dave even asked him how exactly he gets these interviews. Sacha simply stated he wasn't allowed to talk about it... legally. Now at least three of the principal characters in the film are actors, and at least one other celebrity is definitely in on the joke. But that doesn't hurt the funny moments, of which there are plenty. Some of the moments are uncomfortably funny, and there's one in particular that's extremely shocking and rather disturbing. I was able to see the film twice in advance. The first time was a dinner theater, where I ordered food to have during the movie. Despite being VERY hungry, I could barely take a bite, due to laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my chair. This is one incredibly funny flick. Aside from the laughs you'll also see more than a few moments of American shame, like a rather narrow-minded rodeo promoter that hates gays and foreigners, or some embarrassingly drunk frat boys. You may not be a fan of Ali G, or even know who Sacha Baron Cohen is, but you'd be hard-pressed not to enjoy at least some of what's presented here. The government of Kazakhstan is not happy about BORAT, and want more than anything to put a stop to the character. But the undeniable truth is that most folks would never have even heard of Kazakhstan had it not been for the character. So maybe Borat Sagdiyev is in actuality an important asset to his country... even if he ain't real. Oh, and in case you haven't heard, Universal Pictures just dropped over $40 million on the rights to make the Bruno movie. I can't wait. score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give BORAT a 9.

Visit the 20th Century Fox BORAT movie website by clicking here.

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All content 2006