The question of whether you’ll love “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” rests entirely on how you feel about Sacha Baron Cohen and his brand of satire. I find him to be a comedic genius, a true chameleon and a master of improvisation. If you disagree with my characterization of Baron Cohen — and his politics — you’ll find this film to be cruel and crass.
But as an admirer of Baron Cohen’s talent, this “Borat” sequel was exactly what I wanted: a wildly inappropriate, seering and ultimately hilarious look at America in the era of Trump and COVID-19.
It came as a shock when news of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” broke in September, revealing that Baron Cohen and his team shot many of the film’s sequences in secret amid coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions. Many had assumed Baron Cohen’s recent incognito appearances at right-wing rallies were tied to a second season of Baron Cohen’s Showtime series, “Who Is America?”; instead those bits provide the major set pieces of Baron Cohen’s return to Borat.
The sequel’s plot points have been heavily guarded, and I won’t spoil any of them here. I’ll just say that after the events of the first film left Borat disgraced in his home nation of Kazakhstan, the journalist returns to America in an effort to establish better diplomatic relations between the two countries with his 15-year-old daughter Sandra Jessica Parker Sagdiyev (newcomer Maria Bakalova) in tow. In the simplest of terms, “Borat” was a film about friendship and “Subsequent Moviefilm” is a movie about a father bonding with his daughter. And, surprisingly, there’s a lot of heart in this movie and moments of kindness when you least expect them.
Let me also say that nothing I write can prepare you for just how much certain moments of “Subsequent Moviefilm” will make you squirm, and there are a few setups that I found, frankly, disgusting and unnecessary. At times, “Subsequent Moviefilm” feels less like a movie and more like an episode of comedy prank show. Still, “Borat” succeeds where some of Baron Cohen’s recent projects — including “Who Is America?” and “Bruno” — have failed. Yes, you’re uncomfortable, but you also find yourself laughing. A lot.
The moments of genuine comedy outweigh the moments when Baron Cohen’s schtick gets the best of him. He has, I’d argue, the unmatched ability to expose the worst of human nature on camera. How he gets his unsuspecting subjects to reveal themselves, I’ll never know. But the result is a terrifying window into some of our worst impulses and ideals. Because of the lasting cultural legacy of “Borat,” this sequel doesn’t feel as fresh, but it is equally unrelenting and fervent in exploring the very worst aspects of 2020 America. If you’ll allow yourself to move past the absurdity of the premise, “Subsequent Moviefilm” will leave you asking yourself, “How did we get here?” Pair that with an ending so shocking that it could upend a legendary political career, and that is enough for me to recommend “Subsequent Moviefilm.”
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” will be available on Amazon Prime Video on October 23. Follow more Shuffle shenanigans on Twitter and Instagram.
Featured image credit: Amazon Studios