Borat

 
Directed by: Larry Charles
Written by:Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian
Released: November 23, 2006
Grade: B+

What’s the most offensive thing you can say to someone?  There was once a time when the answer that question was to use profanity.  More specifically, you use particular words starting with the letter “f” or “c”.  In today’s politically correct society however, racism and discrimination top the list.  A single comment (innocent or not) is sometimes deemed unforgivable.  Your reputation can be ruined.

This culture shift hasn’t gone unnoticed by comedians.  For those who like to shock their audience (in an attempt to get laughs), it’s provided a new raft of material.  UK born Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G) has mastered the art of offensive comedy.  He has been seen on television screens since 1998 and his first movie, Ali G Indahouse, was made in 2002.  Whilst we had the chance to see it here in Australia, the film was not released in the United States (it went straight to video).  Most Americans did not know who Sacha Baron Cohen was.  

Times have changed.  His latest character creation, a Kazakhstan born journalist named Borat Sagdiyev, has turned Cohen into a world wide star.  When released in the United States in early November, this film’s stellar box-office performance stunned everyone.  Sold out sessions were reported across the country.

Borat’s key to success is its level of offensiveness.  I can’t think of any other film which has gone this far.  This sounds like a contradiction.  If the film is so distasteful, why would anyone pay to go and see it?  Therein lies its genius.  The world has become so politically correct, that we need a way of letting off steam.  We need to laugh about it.

In the film, Borat Sagdiyev travels to the U.S. on assignment.  He plans on studying American culture and then putting it to use in his home country.  The film caused controversy in Kazakhstan as it portrays its people as bumbling hillbillies.  I don’t see the problem to be honest.  Audiences will know it’s a joke and if anything, the country will benefit from the publicity.  If anyone should be worried about image, it’d be the United States.

Once in the “U, S and A”, Borat buys an old ice-cream truck and goes a road trip from New York to Los Angeles.  He is accompanied by his producer, Azamat (Davitian), and a grizzly bear.  I won’t detail the crazy situations Borat gets himself into because I’d be spoiling the best of the jokes.  I can reveal that your reaction will be one of laughter and shock.

In a way, Borat reminded me of the recently released Jackass: Number Two.  It generated a reaction (I squirmed in both films) but when you break it down, there’s not a lot else.  Borat is little more than an 82 minute skit show.  The plot is weak and I’m uncertain if there’s a message to be taken from it.  I’d also like to know which events in the film were staged and which were real.

On the whole, Borat deserves a wrap as one of the year’s most adventurous comedies.  I don’t know if it’d be as funny when seeing it for the second time but it is a film you should at least see once.