Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

The great and powerful force known as the Hollywood Marketing Machine has been in full gear when it comes to pumping the image of Borat into our homes and everyday routine. The zany television reporter, a character created by Sacha Baron Cohen, has been translated into every form of media possible, from ring tones to his very own MySpace profile. Normally this kind of extensive, sensory-overloading blitzkrieg will make me run far away from the nearest theater, as it tends to encourage a bandwagon mentality among the easily convinced. “Borat’s opening this weekend. You’re going right?” Such is the standard mentality, but I tend to fervently go the other direction. After all, I’m one of the few who thought Napoleon Dynamite didn’t live up to the hype, so why should a film like Borat be any different?

Thankfully, when the opportunity arrived, I did indeed buy a ticket to see this comedy, which ended up being one of the best experiences I’ve had in quite some time. Put simply, Cohen is a mad genius, and what he has created is nothing short of a classic character in the lovable, yet oh-so ignorant Borat. The advertising would have you believe the film is nothing more than another entry in the Jackass genre, one in which people stoop to crazy stunts all for the sake of getting it caught on film. However, this is not the case, at least not totally. Borat has a complete story to tell, one populated by fictional characters (including Borat’s grumpy producer Azamat), and these imaginary names spend their time interviewing real U.S. citizens all for the sake of a “documentary.” Where does the fiction end and the reality begin? Are some of Borat’s subjects in on the joke, or are they totally unaware of their situation? Good questions, but totally inconsequential.

What’s so fantastic about Borat is how Cohen manages to elicit some truly bizarre reactions from the men and women he meets throughout the film, as well as his total lack of inhibition. When he attends a rodeo and nods politely as a crusty cowboy essentially trashes anyone with a slightly Middle Eastern complexion (along with implicating that hanging gays is a good thing), you can’t help but laugh and gasp at the same time. You admire Cohen’s straight face, and later, as he butchers the National Anthem in front of thousands of booing spectators, you can’t help but applaud his courage. All too often Borat faces more than a little outrage, but never once does the actor underneath the mustache blink. It’s a tour de force in terms of method performance.

Does the movie go to great lengths to poke and prod? Heavens yes, and it has no problem venturing into any racial, sexual, or gender-based territory. Some highlights include a downright appalling fight between a fully nude Borat and Azamat, the instant gag classic known as The Running of the Jew, and use of the phrase “chocolate face.” Already I’ve gone too far when it comes to spoilers, so I’ll leave you to go and find out the rest for yourself. Unless you’re the type who doesn’t really go for the kind of “in your face” comedy first made popular by the likes of Tom Green (and trust me, Borat is infinitely funnier than anything Green put on film), then you’ll have a great time. You’ll laugh, grimace, and be totally offended by humanity all by the end of the night.

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