Culture > Movies

Rude & crude

Movies | Clever comedy Borat will appeal most to cult following

Issue: "GOP downfall," Nov. 18, 2006

Viewers might wonder if an "R" rating is enough for Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The mockumentary, while quite funny in several places, has extensive male nudity and gaspingly crude sexual content.

The mangled English of the movie's title and main character start off the humor, but the bare plotline gives plenty of room for gags. The Kazakh Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen), is a loutish, anti-Semitic, sexist state journalist who comes to America on a reporting trip. But he soon grows obsessed with Pamela Anderson, and he leaves New York with his producer Azamat (Ken Davitian) in a dinky ice-cream van to find her.

Borat's character has built up a loyal following since he first appeared on Cohen's sketch-comedy Da Ali G Show. The satirical format stays the same: Borat interviews real-life politicians and others who unsuspectingly play the straight man to his foreign ignoramus. (Alan Keyes and former Georgia congressman Bob Barr are two unlucky ones here).

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So first we learn some mock-truths about Kazakhstan: It places 98th for humor in the world, and a national tradition is the running of the Jew. In the United States, Borat informs starchy New York feminists that women have smaller brains. He learns ghetto slang from black teenagers and then happily calls a hotel receptionist "vanilla face." He even finds Americans as bigoted as himself in the form of RV-riding frat boys.

Like all good satire, Borat skewers the very bad behavior its character personifies, with Cohen's particular, deadpan comic cleverness. So clever he's caused an international incident with Kazakh officials, who in the Soviet-esque humorlessness he mocks have criticized his outrageous portrayal of Kazakhstan. The film even ends with a bogus rendition of the Kazakh national anthem, replete with fuzzy images of industrial success.

Borat thrashes political correctness, too, but not without overdoing the crass sexual jokes. Because of that, this one may be only for Borat's cult following.


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