World News – CA – Review: Sacha Baron Cohen Tackles Trump and Coronavirus in Clever, Scattered ‘Borat’ Sequel

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Earlier this year, Sacha Baron Cohen grabbed the typically mischievous headlines when he crushed a right-wing « March for Our Rights » rally in Olympia, Wash Masquerading as a country musician with a straw hat and dungarees he got on stage and worked the crowd, making a lot of them sway and sing along to lyrics like « Obama / what are you gonna do / Inject him the flu from Wuhan « The event’s organizers, a militia called the Washington State Three Percenters, finally realized they were punk, but the damage was done: the cameras were rolling and Baron Cohen, a master of the art of jamming the endless varieties of American ugliness, had succeeded by shooting particularly rancid fish in a MAGA barrel

I remember reading this incident in June and experiencing the usual and devoted wave of admiration for Baron Cohen’s courage, his almost superhuman refusal to break the character under the most intrusive circumstances But my laughter quickly gave way to a shrug – perhaps because any stunt, no matter how shockingly designed or brilliantly executed, pales alongside the obvious stupidity of a maskless public gathering in the middle of a pandemic Or maybe it was because Cohen’s guerrilla and comedy tactics seem both too familiar and woefully inadequate in these times, when reality – depressing, terrifying, and deeply angry reality – seems to trump satire at every turn

Either way, the purpose of these Olympia shenanigans becomes clearer in « Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan », the second scattershot feature film, pretty funny and at times eerily poignant starring Baron Cohen’s most recognizable character First introduced as a show’s personality years ago on « Da Ali G Show », the hapless Kazakh journalist known as Borat Sagdiyev turned a simple traveling journalist ingeniously biting his head Wielding a slaughtered stream of English with scalpel-like precision, he solicited the friendly condescension of ordinary Americans only to turn him into a weapon, sometimes using his character’s clumsy buffoonery to mortify them and sometimes to reflect their own fanaticism

He did this with consistently brilliant and breathtaking effect in the 2006 comedy « Borat: America’s Cultural Teachings to Benefit the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, » which followed Borat as he walked through the US, learn the ins and outs of American culture and discover the daily strongholds of misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia A tense and tumultuous mashup of script and non-script, politics and scatology, the film, directed by Larry Charles, became an instant critical and commercial success It also deprived Borat of perhaps the key ingredient to his success: anonymity

Part of the premise of « Borat Subsequent Moviefilm » – made with the visual coarseness required by Jason Woliner from a script patched together by eight rather staggering screenwriters (including Baron Cohen) – is that Borat has to make up for his unexpected fame It means doing penance for the eternal shame the first film brought to his home country, where he spent several years doing hard labor. But now Borat has been released and sent back to America for an even more foolish mission than ever before: to please the once-glorious nation of Kazakhstan with President Trump, enjoying the latter’s well-known admiration for autocrats like Vladimir. Putin and Kim Jong Un

For reasons that are both difficult and unnecessary to summarize, Borat’s specific mission is to present America’s « Deputy Prime Minister » Mike Pence with the gift of a highly cultured and sexually hyperactive ape named Johnny Et So, again sporting his trademark gray suit and glowing pornstache, Borat returns diverted to America, where he must avoid fans and crowds by wearing increasingly ridiculous disguises (while browsing a store, he even finds a Borat-style « Stupid Foreign Reporter » Costume) He also needs to learn about the latest modern technology, discover the wonders of internet pornography, and, in a fun-recurring fashion, befriend a printer owner who patiently faxes stupid progress reports from Borat to Kazakhstan

But Borat’s plans go wrong when he learns that his 15-year-old daughter Tutar (the formidable Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova) has gone into the monkey crate (She is also replacing Borat’s former sidekick, Azamat, played by the hilarious and sorely missed Ken DavitianBorat’s logical conclusion – that Tutar will make an even better gift for Pence – allows the film to launch a calculated attack on his patriarchal beliefs that women should be kept in cages and that nothing is more dangerous than female pleasure American sexism, oddly enough, gets a bit of a pass here: adrift in a country where women can at least freely drive cars and own businesses, Borat can’t stop the protected but curious Tutar from out of her own figurative cage, a journey that Bakalova invests with mad energy and touching conviction

His release is encouraged by a woman, Jeanise, who appears as one of the stealth heroes in the picture, a voice of sanity and wisdom in a toxic sea of ​​Ku Klux Klan cosplay, from QAnon plot , Holocaust denial and groin rigor – fixed humor But she’s not the only sympathetic participant here, unwittingly or not With a few exceptions – namely a rude plastic surgeon who has been successfully pushed into an occasional display of racism – Borat’s satirical punches don’t land with the same grinding force this time around; the setups are too complicated, the anonymous targets too great, the payouts too meager A dance number at a southern debutante ball causes gasps but, aiming for the rough equivalent of the front fists of the first film, is a bit below the mark. target Another scene, in which Borat and Tutar attempt to embarrass a staunch anti-abortion advocate, is based on a series of verbal misunderstandings so tortured it ends up breaking down

It may be that this film, like its tumultuous predecessor, may scream to be seen in a crowded theater – rather than, say, in a depopulated living room – for maximum impact. It may also be that the usual « gotcha » of Baron Cohen! games seem redundant, even ho-hum, at a time when a white Republican senator isn’t thinking of publicly mocking his colleague’s native Indian name (Or digitally widening his Jewish opponent’s nose in a campaign ad, an act that makes Borat’s own anti-Semitic attire seem positively enlightened) As the past four years have clearly shown, many ignorant Americans are more than happy to announce their bigotry without any insistence from Borat The people he is with spending time here can elicit the weird spasm of pity in comparison, like the guys who kindly let it crash with them during COVID-19 quarantine, to regale it with the theories being backed by QAnon about Democratic cults of blood collect It’s sad, of course; it is also the opposite of shocking

The coronavirus makes a late appearance in ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’, injecting a nauseating alarm note into an overloaded, extremely minute storyline that also finds time to nod at Dr Anthony Fauci, Melania Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, Justin Trudeau and Pence Although the Vice President’s brief appearance has already been widely announced in the film’s trailer, the filmmaker of the film arrived with a request not to reveal some of the other big targets of Borat And if you want to get into the movie knowing as little as possible, I advise you to stop reading now (as you probably should have done earlier)

But if you don’t care, well, neither do I. After all, the news that Rudy Giuliani called the cops in July in response to a prank by Baron Cohen is already common knowledge and much more from their shocking, culminating, what-I-see-I-see encounter will become public knowledge as this film weaves its way through culture, inspiring a new set of heated arguments and possibly a few indignant prosecutions Maybe this qualifies as a spoiler.But as Borat’s latest misadventures exist to remind us, we live in a world gone mad, and conformity seems against its gleefully lawless spirit.

« Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan »

Rating: R, for ubiquitous crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and language Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes Playback: Available October 23 on Amazon Prime Video

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Justin Chang has been a film critic for the Los Angeles Times since 2016 He is the author of the book « FilmCraft: Editing » and is President of the National Society of Film Critics and Secretary of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn

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World News – CA – Review: Sacha Baron Cohen Tackles Trump and Coronavirus in Clever, Scattered ‘Borat’ Sequel


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