A review of “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan ” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for obscenities, language and nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 82 minutes

 

 

          Batten down the hatches and hide the children because Borat is coming to town. That’s Borat Sagdiyev to you and me, a sex-crazed, single-monikered, obscenity-spouting Kazakhstani reporter for a state-owned TV network who’s crossing the U.S. of A. in search of the pulse of mainstream America.

          As Borat (comedian Sacha Baron Cohen) zigzags his way across the country he interviews all manner of unsuspecting Americans eager to help a foreigner in need. No one is immune to Borat’s outrageous antics thinly masquerading as “charming” misunderstandings. Not the gourmet wine-tasters club who show Borat to the powder room halfway through dinner only to see him return to the table with a doggy bag of his own feces (you had to be there). Nor the diction coach who attempts to instruct Borat in common American jargon and is repeatedly tripped up over the use of the slangy disclaimer “Not!”

          While stateside Borat catches a late-night re-run of “Baywatch” and falls head over heels for the bodacious Pamela Anderson, vowing to travel to California to make her his wife. His reasoning? “She have teeth that only grow on inside of mouth, and her arms are so slenderous that she does not look strong to punch a horse to sleep”. Whatever floats your boat.

          As with all extensive travels there are unwieldy mishaps galore – broken down budget ice-cream trucks (resulting in an eventful hitch with a quartet of drunk and horny frat boys), a disastrous singing gig at a hee-haw rodeo and a side-splitting stop at a suspicious “gypsy camp”, aka a Midwestern yard sale.

          Throughout Borat’s humor crosses every line of decency and taste – scatological, anti-Semitic, sexist and pervasively offensive. But it’s funny – damn funny for most of its short running time. The gag flags a smidge in the third act, slightly repetitious but always on the mark. A nude wrestling match with obese producer/sidekick Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian) tips the scales to repulsive.

          Borat’s beloved homeland is the butt of many of Baron Cohen’s preposterous jokes – a small west-central Asian country that boasts fermented horse urine as its national wine and forbids women to drive cars, comparing such an inconceivable act to that of a monkey flying a plane.

          Rumor has it that the powers that be of the real-life Kazakhstan are not amused, and have even threatened to sue. For fans of irony: British born Baron Cohen is devoutly Jewish yet “Borat” is liberally sprinkled with nasty anti-Jewish sentiment. Go figure.

 Credit Baron Cohen with the guts to go out on a comic limb with this vulgar yet courageous fish-out-of-water tale and wacky mockumentarial adventure that’s destined to become a cult-classic --  plucky, uproarious and totally uncompromising.