Following Nationwide Anticipation, the Second Borat Movie Falls Flat

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is the sequel to the 2006 hit mockumentary Borat. In the first film, Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) travels from his home country of Kazakhstan to the United States to venture on a cross-country road trip searching for America’s greatness. In the newly-released movie, the President of Kazakhstan sends Borat on a mission to improve relations with President Donald Trump through people in the Trump administration. Borat has plans to sell his daughter to Vice President Mike Pence, which leads to many awkward mishaps. Borat 2 is an absurd movie with both smart performances and good chemistry. But even by only watching the ending, you can feel the cringe-inducing tone set by the #Girlboss feminism and the overused COVID-19 jokes all throughout the movie.    

The first Borat film received high ratings and was a huge box office success, but it also stirred up some controversy due to its portrayal of Kazakhstan, which led it to be banned in the country. Additionally, some of the unknowing participants of the film sued, as they felt they were misrepresented and unfairly mocked by the film. The second movie received less favorable, but still positive reviews, and it was solely released on Amazon Prime Video due to COVID-19. Many critics, including ourselves, felt it oversaturated the jokes from the first movie, but in fear of being offensive, dumbed them down. This took away from the effect of the “Am I allowed to laugh at this?” questions that really made the first movie feel fresh and push boundaries. Instead, Borat 2 has some heartwarming moments, including those between Borat’s daughter and her unaware babysitter. Despite these sweet moments, it lacks the pacing and laugh-out-loud jokes you need for a good comedy. 

It lacks the pacing and laugh-out-loud jokes you need for a good comedy.

Borat’s daughter, Tutar, is a large focus of the movie. Her ideas about the rights of women change from the extreme and outdated sexist beliefs of her home that she had internalized, to a more modern view of women’s rights as the movie progresses. Our main problem with the movie lies directly with her progression as a character. Her feminist growth reminded us of a “Girls Rule!” t-shirt you’d find at Target. Tutar is played by Maria Bakalova, for whom this was a breakout role. Even with her inexperience, she worked surprisingly well under unusual circumstances within the role.

Borat is played by Sacha Baron Cohen, an English actor and comedian. In addition to Borat, Cohen has played numerous other satirical characters (one of his most famous one being Ali G, an exaggerated “chav”). Though he’s best known for his comedy, he’s played the occasional serious role as well, starring in the film The Trial of the Chicago 7 as Abby Hoffman. 

Some would say Cohen takes satire too far. Is Borat allowed to say abhordly racist, antisemitic, and sexist things, yet still be able to call it a joke? We would argue yes. Sacha Baron Cohen is a politically active comedian, he has spoken out against social media platforms allowing Holocaust deniers free reign, and he is Jewish himself. That being said, Borat isn’t in fact the satire, his unwitting participants are. His participants nod in agreement at the prospect of selling his daughter, and write “Jews will not replace us” on a cake. It just proves how much people will say or allow if they think others around give them permission to agree. Both Borat movies reflect a mirror on America, but by the time Borat 2 came out, we had already seen the ugly reflection of America, and we didn’t need a movie to expose it any more.  

With some absurd scenes and the legacy of the first movie, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was always going to be a thoroughly discussed film. But that’s really all this movie is: shock value and references to the original Borat.