Saturday, October 28, 2006


This review is posted by guest reviewer, Nik, who can usually be found here:

Sacha Baron Cohen is a funny funny Jew, and he's sent up America perfectly in his latest movie:
CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GREAT NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN. His fictional character, Borat, a TV reporter and unintentionally homo-erotic anti-semite from Kazakhstan with his catchphrase "Jagshemesh" - is sent on a mission to the "US and A" to bring back valuable cultural learnings for the improvement of his beloved homeland. Only he's not really a reporter, he's a British comedian - and between very funny scripted scenes of Borat and his producer arguing and wrestling nude - we are treated to some of the best real-life send-up comedy ever seen.

Cohen's genius in this film is to spread his criticism and humour evenly across the spectrum of American socio-politics - from offending a group of stuck up feminists in New York by asking them if it was a problem that women had smaller brains than men - to exposing the ludicrous nature of a Pentecostal service in Texas. From coast to coast, from Republican to Democrat, from liberal to conservative - Borat reveals and satirises every prejudice and idiosyncrasy - from a Rodeo manager who wants to string up gays, to a bunch of drunken "wigger" frat-boys and their unseemly views on women.

The sheer variety of types of humour is also refreshing - it varies from Charlie Chaplin type slapstick to very politically aware satire to good old fashioned stereotyping - and throughout Cohen retains an excellent comic timing, especially noticeable in the unscripted "real-life" scenes. It also goes far further than Borat or any of Cohen's characters have ever gone before - into areas where arrest and/or lynching is a real possibility. It's also incredible to note how famous and how well connected Cohen has become when even Baywatch Babe Pamela Anderson herself - who Borat falls in love with during the movie - is in on the gag. This guy is obviously a hot hot property in Hollywood would now.

But the best characters, as usual, are the American people themselves. From the hysteria of the Pentecostal Church, to the uneasy politeness of the middle-American dinner party (Pastor and all), to the sharp unfriendliness and in-your-face attitude of New Yorkers towards Borat's approaches and kisses - the whole gamut of attitudes and personalities are included in this film. It really is a people watcher's delight. The film does well to depict America as it is - a diverse land with diverse people. It warms the heart to see the friendliness of the little Jewish household that Borat stays in and the politeness of the people who meet him - it shocks us to see the petty prejudices and casual racism of so many - and equally it chills us to see the mainstream evangelical movement as it generally is in the States: sad, insular, peer pressured, anti-scientific, and scarily well connected politically and judicially. The film has as many serious sides as comic moments.

Unfortunately, there's also a serious side to this review. Sadly, many of my American friends will be unable to watch this great film when it is released, even though it has recieved massive critical acclaim thus far, and is being well recieved on both sides of the ocean. That's because the initial release is being slashed from 2,000 to 800 cinemas in the USA - apparantly due to the fact that so few Americans have even heard of Borat, other than in the big cities, especially on the coasts. Or could it be that, this close to an election, noone wants Missouri to be influenced with the cynical connection between evangelical nuts and Congressman? Whatever the case, it is absolutely imperitive my trans-atlantic friends that you and your friends go to see this excellent movie - to encourage a wider release, better publicity and a more educated and aware populous!

If you're an American, this is as essential viewing as Bill Bryson is essential reading - it holds a mirror up to the USA in the funniest and most diverse of ways - treading a wonderful and humorous middle ground from sea to shining sea. It will only further compound the dim view held in Europe of central and mountain America as a place of cultural and social backwardness if it were, through its distaste or obliviousness, to miss such a great great movie about the very country it is part of. Seriously, such a gem shouldn't only be enjoyed in Los Angeles and New York - not only because these places have quite enough culture - but because Kansas needs some love. Borat style.

It opens on November 3rd - my advice is to pre-book your tickets, stock up on popcorn, and prepare to laugh solidly for one and half hours. Until then, Jencooie!

BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN played Toronto and London 2006. It opens in Belgium, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia, the UK, Denmark, Estonia, Finalnd, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and the USA on the weekend of November 3rd. BORAT opens in Singapore, France, Norway, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Portugal later in November. It opens in Argentina and Brazil in February 2007.

Bina007 adds: More on the slashed screenings: screenings in the US have been slashed because the studio is worried that Middle America will not be able to deal with a Brit taking the piss out of it. You can see why they are worried from the messages on IMDB. One poster named
William G Boykin cries out: "We saved Europe from Hitler, and we are repaid with mockery!!" Mr Boykin also is very pleased with his little wordplay in coming up with the following: "A lie-beral elitist who graduated from Cambridge like Sacha Cohen is not qualified to judge me or any of my friends and family members." I only hope Boykin does not speak for the average American. A culture that cannot laugh at itself or take humourous criticism, whether from an insider or outsider sounds more like the Soviet Union than the America we (used to?)know and love.


  1. Great review! I saw a preview of this in Philadelphia and it angers me that people are so narrow-minded and idiotic to be able to see that 1) the comedy of Borat makes fun of Americans NOT Kazakstan and that 2) any americans are getting angry or feel they are being judged by this film. It's just as important as Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles in its harsh yet ridiculously hilarious mocking of american predjudice and naivette.

    Not to mention Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the funniest men alive currently.

    I hope this film gets more press and release so it can open the doors for the Bruno movie.

  2. Looks ominious. Press reports had analysts pitching this opposite Santa Clause 3 - a family film opening wide. Benchmarked against that movie, the returns on Borat are almost bound to look crappy, especially now they slashed the screens. I suspect this is one of those movies that will be HUGE on DVD....

  3. "We saved Europe from Hitler, and we are repaid with mockery!!"

    Yes, eventually America did join the war but only because Pearl Harbo(u)r was bombed, it wasn't exactly altruism. It's not like we (Europe) didn't do anything at all to stop Hitler either. Unless you believe all the Hollwood movies where all the soldiers are American & Europe did nothing to stop Hitler.

    How often are the British (& probably many other European nations) made fun of in American movies & TV yet we can't poke fun at the Americans. Not to mention how much SBC has made fun of Britain in the past anyway. He could probably do the same thing to any country if he wanted to, but who wants to watch Borat visit Belarus, Togo or Tuvalu (no offence to those countries btw).

    For any Americans reading this, I don't hate all of you, just the arseholes, same as any other country (& thanks for The Simpsons, South Park etc). ;-)

  4. Saw this movie at the last showing on a Wednesday night here in Baton Rouge. The place was absolutely packed and I have not seen laughter on this scale at a movie since 'There's something about Mary'. Go see it - it's brilliant/offensive/hilarious.

  5. Fabulously funny movie but no doubt intended to make a Republican America look as ridiculous as Europeans have styled it. It's not good natured ribbing by any means or indicative of the American people. More a testament to how far people are willing to go with a bad joke to fit in. That's a trait I find as prevalent in the UK as anywhere on earth.

    No denying Cohen is among the funniest men alive. Likewise there is no denying that Europeans (Brits included) are just as quick to join in an unfair bashing as the worst American bigot.

  6. I think this comment on a review site summarizes the way I feel about the constant Ami-Bashing.

    "You say that Borat/Baron Cohen "mercilessly satirises America's pride and prejudice." Only someone who is anti-American would say such a ridiculous thing. The movie is hysterical, but not because it makes fun of my fellow Americans (it doesn't), or points out some great flaw in the American psyche (again, it doesn't). It's funny because Borat messes with peoples' minds.

    You anti-American Eurotards see confirmation of your prejudices wherever you wish to see them, because your minds are perversely & obsessively tuned to one message: that the USA is terrible and must be destroyed.

    Well, the USA is a lovely place, and it won't be destroyed. The USA will be free & independent long after the muezzin's call to prayer sounds all over the UK, and you non-Muslim dhimmis have been reduced to strangers in your own lands. Ciao. ;)

    PS. Baron Cohen is effing genius."

    Damned well said !

  7. @Ron.

    Nik did not say the things you ascribe to him and was far less insulting than you were in your comments. You claim that the humour in the movie is not good-natured, but then neither is the closing part of your comment. In fact, I would construe it as being profoundly anti-Muslim and would strike it from the blog if I didn't have a stronger belief in freedom of speech. For your information, the muezzin's call for prayer does sound out all over Britain. That should be unsurprising. We live in a multi-cultural society and you can hear the call to prayer alongside church bells.

    Cohen does point out prejudices within certain sections of American society. This does not make him or the people who enjoy his movies anti-American. Cohen did a similarly good job puncturing British prejudices with his Ali G character - which was also fantastically popular in the UK. Surely the point is that all societies have mis-placed pride and prejudices. It's just that this movie focuses on one in particular.

  8. I was about to say, Cohen became famous with a character that satirised Britain and British prejudices and stupidities long before Borat was ever dreamed up - and long before he went to the USA.

    Ali-G was hugely popular here, and launched Cohen's career for the very reason that we can laugh at ourselves - just as American audiences can also laugh at themselves and the idiosyncracies of American culture.

    It's just a shame that you Ron, as so offensive and singlemindedly blind that you have chosen to put me in a box that I do not belong, and attribute quotes to me that I did not say.

  9. Great Review!

    Saw the movie in Washington DC. Half full theater in the burbs, although I hear that it was sold out in the DC area.

    I saw one woman leaving during the nude wrestling scene - I think she was going to chuck.

    Interestingly the feminist who walked out (Linda Stein) and the frat boys are pissed off about being fooled into revealing themeselves. Good link to aftermath at USA today.

    Keep up the good writing!

  10. $12 to get insulted for 2 hours, with the decency shown by "Kramer" in his comedy act.

    Yeah, good review if you are into S&M. It's a waste of time, never makes a good movie "present", about as "collectable" as Revenge of the Nerds... part III.

    But $126 million in grosses... the final laugh? On the audience, who paid for the boots that stepped on their feeding hands.