Movies: Borat

By this point, reviewing “Borat: Cultural Learning’s of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” seems almost superfluous, since almost everyone on campus has already seen the film. The memorable lines, such as “Sex Crimes? High Five!” echo around campus. The premise of the film is simple. British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen adopts the character of Borat Sagdiyev, a Kazakh journalist, from his popular TV show “Da Ali G Show.” In the film, Borat is on a mission for the Information Ministry of Kazakhstan and travels across the U.S. to produce a documentary on American culture. Along with obese producer Azamat Bagatov, Cohen interviews unsuspecting Americans who believe he is an actual foreign TV personality. Despite the candidness of the movie, most of the film’s events are blatantly staged. All the participants in the movie had to sign waivers, and no matter how blonde Pamela Anderson’s hair, it’s highly unlikely that Borat almost got away with kidnapping her. Still, the best moments of the movie are those that are completely unscripted. For example, Borat, down on his luck, attends a Pentecostal Christian revival meeting. After being fervently reassured that Jesus would love even a non-Christian foreigner, Borat pretends being possessed and speaks in tongues, completely fooling all of the congregants. While most American audiences love the hilarity of the movie, the movie has sparked criticism from the Kazakh government and the Anti-Defamation League. The movie has been banned in Russia as well as the United Arab Emirates, and has been targeted with potential lawsuits from the drunken fraternity boys and Romanian villagers depicted in the film. Yet, it’s hard to argue with a $26.4 million dollar opening weekend, especially when the movie premiered on less than 1000 screens. However, people who focus on the controversies or fixate on the racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic characters miss the point of Cohen’s comedic genius. The joke is on them, not on women, Gypsies, Muslims, or Jews. People like Georgia State Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Smith, who said, “America has been, and always will be, a Christian nation.” Or Bobby Rowe, the Virginia rodeo promoter who expressed his enthusiastic approval of Kazakhstan’s supposed policy of hanging homosexuals by saying, “That’s what we’re trying to do over here.” Or how about the cheering crowd applauding George Bush’s “War of Terror?” The butt of Borat’s jokes is minorities, but the film depicts how Americans believe there is nothing wrong with ignorantly stereotyping others. Nevertheless, even as “Borat” tries to teach its audience about these many forms of stereotypes, the movie can’t help but get downright absurd at times. Though the shocked reactions of the mortgage brokers’ convention was nothing short of hilarious, it’s going to take years of therapy to get over the scene of the naked man-wrestling in the hotel. In short, the movie is crass, disgusting, immature, and the best comedy I’ve seen in a theater this year. (Comedy of the year, however, goes to the limited-release “Grandma’s Boy.”) “Borat” may even enlighten you on how mindless some Americans are and how they are perceived by the world. Even if you have already heard an earful of “Yakshimash,” go see what all the “Borat” buzz is about.