A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that teens are definitely going to want to see this raunchy, vulgar comedy; Sacha Baron Cohen uses the character of Borat to expose the effects of ignorance by targeting ignorant behavior. But unless you want to dive under your seat or clap your hands over their eyes and ears, this is absolutely not kid entertainment. Fake "reporter" Borat lampoons Americans' sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, classism, and ageism by putting people on the spot and peppering them with questions. The movie is full of stuff like naked men wrestling (an extended, rather explicit sequence); visual gags about prostitution, feminism, and marriage (a wife's death is celebrated); toilet humor (literally); and some physical fighting/clumsiness. Jokes aimed at U.S. popular culture and beliefs include references to Baywatch, Michael Jackson, "Dirty Harold," Pentecostal church practices, Jews, rodeos/cowboys, etiquette, patriotic pride, hip-hop culture, and college fraternities. Language includes "f--k," "c--k," "s--t," "ass," "p---y," and just about anything else you can imagine (some in subtitles).
What's the story?
Borrowing from Andy Kaufman, John Waters, and Steve-O, BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN is a faux documentary that tracks the cross-country antics of Kazakh TV reporter Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen). Borat and his hairy, camera-shy producer Azamat (Ken Davitian) are sent to America to learn about "the glorious country U, S, and A" and make a documentary for their local Kazakh TV station. While almost everyone (real people, not actors) he meets on the way goes along with his contorted language and vulgar behavior, it's not always easy to tell where their awareness begins and ends. Some appear to wholly buy his routine (a loudly homophobic and patriotic cowboy advises him to shave off his mustache so he doesn't look like a "terrorist"), but most seem at least vaguely conscious of his strangeness ... and the possibility that he and his unseen camera crew have ulterior motives. Still, they know about reality TV, so they imagine they understand -- or might control -- the humiliation of their encounters with Borat. Not so much. Borat interviews stern-faced "feminists" (laughing at their suggestion that women might be equal to men), talks to politicians Bob Barr and Alan Keyes (a genuine "chocolate face," Borat marvels), cavorts with Gay Pride revelers (with whom he drinks, showers, and spends the night) and Pentecostal churchgoers (where his behavior is, suddenly, the least outrageous in the room). And he proclaims repeatedly his love for all things American. A rodeo audience goes along when he lauds "America's war of terror" ("May George Bush drink the blood of every man, woman, and child in Iraq"), but ultimately becomes uncomfortable when he hijacks the U.S. national anthem in order to praise Kazakhstan.
Is it any good?
Director Larry Charles' movie is less innovative and subversive than it is observant, but it does show that laughing at ignorance constitutes its own kind of bliss. The case might be made that Borat picks (on) easy targets: frat boys, rodeo cowboys, hotel desk clerks, smug Southern dining club members. Although the government of Kazakhstan has protested publicly against the character, Baron Cohen's fans (familiar with his origins on Da Ali G Show) appreciate Borat's gotcha comedy. Baron Cohen never breaks character, maintaining the persona of an outspoken, misogynistic, anti-Semitic manchild who -- while shopping for a vehicle with which he can "kill gypsies" -- announces cheerfully that he bought his wife when she was 12.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about deliberately offensive humor. Does Borat's mockery of ignorance and prejudice help the people he targets understand his point, or are they clueless "victims" of his humor? What point is the movie trying to make?
Ask your kids if they think viewers who identify with some of the intolerant/over-earnest people Borat interviews will see themselves in a new light. Or will they feel upset by the on-screen encounters?
Does the satire help or simply entertain? How can you tell the difference?
- In theaters: November 2, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: March 6, 2007
- Cast: Ken Davitian, Luenell, Sacha Baron Cohen
- Director: Larry Charles
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 82 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.