Anti-social riot

Posted on 02 Oct 2006 at 4:41pm
By Steve Warren Contributing Film Critic

Including a stop in Dallas, “‘Borat’ is a crude, rude, sidesplitting tour of U.S.



Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen, second from right) makes a surprise appearance at D.C. Pride.


B

Director: Larry Charles
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian and Pamela Anderson
Opens Nov. 3 in wide release
1 hr., 22 min. R

Sure to be praised by any critic who gets paid by the word, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” is a “Jackass” movie with a brain, and without a bunch of buddies to back up the lone risk-taker.

For those unfamiliar with Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen), a character introduced on “Da Ali G Show,” he introduces himself in his village of Kuczek, Kazakhstan (filmed in Romania). He’s preparing to leave for the “U.S. and A.”
to film a documentary for the Kazakhstan Ministry of Culture, accompanied by his producer, Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), and an unseen crew.

Getting into the character of Borat gives Baron Cohen a license for outrageousness. His shtick is approaching people and doing things they may try to excuse because he’s a foreigner. But he usually manages to exceed the limits of their tolerance. In New York he introduces himself to strangers and tries to kiss them on both cheeks, but New Yorkers don’t turn the other cheek.

Borat asks a humor coach, “Do you ever laugh at people with retardation?”

There are several more such encounters as the film progresses everything from being alone in a car with a driving instructor to singing the Kazakh National Anthem at a rodeo in Virginia after warming up the crowd with a speech that begins, “We support your War of Terror!”

Borat’s plans change when he watches TV in his New York hotel room and discovers a character named C.J., then later learns she’s played by Pamela Anderson. He insists on heading for California so he can marry her, although he doesn’t tell Azamat his motive.

At one point, the two men have a falling-out that takes the form of a nude wrestling match. They get into positions you wouldn’t believe perhaps some you wouldn’t even try. Even without digital covering-up of genitalia, the scene would hardly be considered erotic.

Slightly more erotic is the fondling at a “traditional American street festival” Borat stumbles upon the Gay Pride Parade in Washington D.C. Discussing it the next day with former presidential candidate Alan Keyes, Borat asks innocently, “Are you telling me the man who tried to put a rubber fist in my anus was a homosexual?”

On the other hand, Borat manages to find an apparently straight man running an antique shop in North Texas, where there seems to be a market for items with symbols of the Confederacy.

Being naturally suspicious, one can’t help wondering how many scenes were actually as un-staged as they’re cracked up to be. It’s not easy to photograph so many non-professionals and keep them ignoring the camera. If director Larry Charles actually managed it, he’s some kind of genius.

Considering the track record for TV sketch-comedy being expanded into feature films, the odds were against “Borat.” But it’s up there with “Wayne’s World.” At the end, Borat thanks you “for coming to my films. I hope you like.”

I like.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 3, 2006.

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