By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox.
Borat is a relentless comedy extravaganza. He milks existing situations for the maximum comedy potential and creates comedy where there would otherwise be none.
Movie Review: Borat
From the opening Kazakhstani titles translated into English subtitles flickering on dirty, scratched film, Borat begins an onslaught of brilliant material. He’s like Yakov Smirnoff on crack pointing out the town rapist, the mechanic/abortionist and toddlers with heavy artillery.
That sequence is obviously staged for Borat to run through his rapid fire routine and establish that he is going to America to learn what makes us such a success, so he can bring those secrets back to Kazakhstan. What follows is a progression of vignettes like his Ali G Show appearances connected in a plot taking him across America to find Pamela Anderson.
Borat is fearless in his pursuits. Public exhibitionism alone could land him in jail, let alone attacking innocent pedestrians with his persona. Some of his bits are elaborately set up, like calling a hooker in advance to intrude on an etiquette dinner, and others just flow naturally like ridiculously breaking everything in an antique shop. Wonder what the budget was here.
When raw nerve is not required, Borat is impeccable at picking up on threads or making some of his own. Introducing the whole bit about his “retarded” brother with the humor coach, and then “misunderstanding” the word “retired” at the etiquette session is just genius intuition. His misinterpretation of bathroom procedure is inspired.
The parts that are just Borat and Azamat talking about the documentary project seem scripted, like fictional interstitials to connect each location’s real Borat segment. That’s fine. They are still funny, and consistent with the tone of Borat’s character in the real bits. Besides, if he’s giving you something as funny as The Running of the Jew, isn’t it worth a little scripted interlude?
Oddly, most of the segments do not run on uncomfortably long. I expect all of them ran longer in execution, and especially the ones that turn hostile had some dramatic aftermaths. Pacing of the movie is one thing, but I would think part of the comedy is watching things drag on as people lose their patience. Even if Borat’s not at the top of his game the whole time, wouldn’t it be funny to see the feminists or the etiquette coaches gradually wear down?
The wrap-up segment is not nearly as relentless as the opening intro so the film doesn’t get to end on the relentless note from which is began. But there’s so much funny stuff, whatever is staged still feels real and you’ve got to respect a man who puts comedy out there in the world. Frankly, just hearing him pronounce “vagina” like “vajeen” is all I need.