“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” Not Great Success, But Still Very Nice

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Sebastian Hunt, Head of Opinions and Reviews

★★★½

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, simply put, is a more ordinary film than 2006’s Borat. That’s the best comparison of the two. Instead of focusing primarily on the hysterically spontaneous shenanigans of Sacha Baron Cohen, Subsequent Moviefilm appears more concerned with typical moviemaking tenets: plot, character, theme, etc. It’s a good comedy — certainly the best of 2020 thus far — but it’s also just a comedy, and isn’t nearly the breath of fresh air that was the original.

Picking up nearly fifteen years after its predecessor, Subsequent Moviefilm finds Cohen’s Kazakhstani journalist serving out a life sentence of hard labor for turning his country into a global laughing stock. Needless to say, modern developments free Borat of his predicament and send him back to the United States. Traveling with his long-lost daughter (Maria Bakalova), Borat races to accomplish a task which could determine his life and the fate of Kazakhstan’s reputation.

Subsequent Moviefilm’s thematic construction is almost too competent for its own good. Cohen’s relationship with his onscreen daughter is genuinely involving, and in consequence casts a distracting veil of poignancy over an otherwise silly and satirical film, stealing focus from Cohen’s improvisational antics. Furthermore, Subsequent Moviefilm is overly reliant on current events. Its comic soul is almost exclusively composed of gags relating to Donald Trump, COVID-19 and right-wing conspiracies; Subsequent Moviefilm lacks the timeless aura of the original Borat. That being said, the humor (however outdated it may become) usually lands and I found myself laughing quite hard quite often.

Cohen is obviously terrific, but it’s Bakalova who proves Subsequent Moviefilm’s highlight. Though perhaps not as hilarious a companion to Cohen as Ken Davitian was in 2006, Bakalova is infinitely more engaging and emerges as Subsequent Moviefilm’s most fully realized character.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is not a perfect film. I’ll stand by my assertion that it will age rapidly, and unwisely forces Cohen’s trademark tomfoolery into the background in favor of a preordained narrative. But, I can’t deny that it was loads of fun to revisit the Borat character, and that Bakalova is a revelation as Borat’s daughter. Recommended, if you saw (and liked) the original.