2006-11-17 / Columnists


'Borat' - The Russians Are Funny
Review By Robert Snyder

British comic genius Sacha Baron Cohen has scored a monster hit ($26.4 million opening weekend) with what is basically an over-the-top (way over) variation on the SNL wild-and-crazy-guy skit. He's also doing what Tom Hanks tried to do in "The Terminal," Steven Spielberg schmaltz replaced with non-stop offensiveness.

Cohen's movie is titled, "Borat; Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." It's the reality TV-type adventures of a backward ex-Soviet Kazakhstanian television journalist, Borat Sagdiyev (Cohen), penetrating the United States with his outrageously innocent ignorance.

The film opens with Borat's introduction, "Although Kazakhstan a glorious country, it have a problem, too: economic, social and Jew. This is why the Ministry of Information have decide to send me to US and a greatest country in the world to learn a lessons for Kazakhstan." Borat expresses his people's fear of Jews although Cohen himself is Jewish. The Anti-Defamation League has stated that while "Borat" is not malevolent or anti-Semitic, the League nonetheless cautions that some audience members "may not be sophisticated enough to get the joke and may find it reinforcing their bigotry." Thank God, Mel Gibson didn't direct it.

Accompanied by his obese producer, Azamat (Ken Davitian), Borat lands in the Big Apple, going "wild and crazy" to the tune of "Midnight Cowboy's" "Everybody's Talkin." He chases (his) chicken in the subway, as he attempts to kiss all the men within lip distance. He's not gay (homophobic, in fact), just over-polite. Unaware of modern plumbing, he washes his hands in toilets and underwear in the Central Park lake. As for defecating, that happens just about everywhere (in public). He unpacks his suitcase in an elevator, believing it to be his room.

Watching TV, he has an epiphany when "Baywatch's" Pamela Anderson appears. He decides she will be the new Mrs. Borat. He cons Azamat into buying a used ice cream truck to travel to the Promise Land of California to find his dreamgirl. Borat is fully prepared to win the wonder woman. He's armed with a burlap sack.

Along the way, he encounters all things American (real American, "Candid Camera"-style) with hysterical results. Over-the-top becomes out-of-the-stratosphere when Borat discovers Azamat "pleasuring" himself to a photo of the divine Pamela. He goes ballistic and into a prolonged wrestling match with his overweight buddy. It starts in the bedroom and ends up in the packed hotel convention hall. One problem: The Kazakhstanian combatants are totally naked. If you're strong of stomach and ready for earth-shaking hilarity, better run to "Borat."

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