A decade after Borat travelled across America in an ice cream van to kidnap Pamela Anderson, Sacha Baron Cohen dusts off the grey suit and moustache for election year, with his sights set firmly on the eight remaining people who haven’t heard of him.
His mission: deliver a gift to a senior Trump official to ingratiate the Kazakh government with the Hobbit-handed Wotsit. Borat is joined by daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova) who idolises Melania and dreams of one day living in a gilded cage of her own.
Like Cohen’s recent TV series Who is America? it promises scathing take-downs of high profile targets but more often delivers wacky skits on unsuspecting nobodies. While it’s exactly as cringe-inducing as you would expect, it’s less reliant on grossout humour than some of his other work, with a decent story peppered with laugh-out-loud dialogue, as well as genuinely heartfelt moments which make for a better-rounded film than his first offering. This will disappoint people wishing to see more of Azamat Bagatov’s ballsac, but for the rest of us it’s a welcome shift.
The election brings the satire into tighter focus. The film is clear in its purpose: to draw attention to the hatred and bigotry of Trump’s America, with a final act plea for us to vote in decidely un-Kazakhi fashion (or at least un- Borat’s fictional Kazakhi). Cohen is on form as his most enduring character, but Bakalova is the breakout star, in both the scripted scenes with Borat and in her real-life interactions, matching Cohen in her physical performance.
In spite of Cohen smashing taboos with his usual abandon, most scenes are no more outrageous than real-life antics in Trump-land. In fact Trump, his family and his cronies are surely so used to excruciating, humiliating situations it’s a wonder Cohen’s film registered at all between Tiffany Trump’s efforts to endear herself to the LGBTQ+ community, Melania whining about spoilt kids in cages, Rudy Giuliani doing his best Chinese impression, Sean Spicer claiming Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons, or Donald kissing Mike Pence, talking to Boy Scouts about a sex yacht, touting bleach as a cure for Coronavirus, forgetting what to do when the national anthem plays, missing his cue, falling in love with Kim Jong-Un, threatening to kiss everyone at a rally, failing to hand out candy, extolling the virtues of invisible planes, getting toilet paper on his shoe, bragging about the military at an easter egg hunt, claiming windmills cause cancer, cowering from an eagle, making up a country in Africa, saying he didn’t want to be in Pennsylvania to a crowd in Pennsylvania, dancing to the YMCA, looking directly at the sun, blaming energy saving lightbulbs for making him look orange, his every interaction with daughter Ivanka…