International lampoon's vacation
'Borat' is outrageously offensive. But, as cultural satire, it's also painfully hilarious.
"Borat" should be issued with a warning to all who are squeamish about explicit comedy involving body parts; body odors; racial, ethnic, and religious stereotypes; bestiality; heterosexuality; homosexuality; pansexuality; Pamela Anderson, the Confederacy, rodeos, hip-hop, the Bush administration, naked wrestling, or the New York subway system.
Most of all, I would issue this warning: "Borat" is painfully funny.
The film is officially called "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," and it is the demented brainchild of British comic Sacha Baron Cohen, star of HBO's "Da Ali G Show." One of his alter egos for that show is Borat Sagdiyev, "Kazakhstan's sixth most famous man" and a journalist – the term is applied very loosely – for the state-run TV network.
If ever there was a comic character who deserved to be spun off into his own movie, it's Borat. With his Groucho-esque moustache and gray suit, he looks like a man who (at least in his own mind) is ready for prime time. The film, directed by "Seinfeld" veteran Larry Charles, is a mockumentary about Borat's trip to America – or as he calls it, "the US and A" – to learn about our cultural mores.
The odyssey begins in New York but rapidly gets sidetracked when Borat is mesmerized by the sight of Pamela Anderson while watching "Baywatch" in his motel. Vowing to meet and marry her, Borat and his cameraman-producer Azamat (Ken Davitian), who resembles a human hairball, make their way cross country in the only vehicle available to them, an ice-cream truck.
Cohen and his team of writers sketched this plot outline and then, essentially, winged it. Most of the movie is a series of unscripted encounters with unsuspecting people who were under the impression they were participating in Borat's documentary. Cohen is completely in character throughout, even when the situations become so hostile that one fears for his safety.