A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is the sequel to 2006's over-the-top comedy Borat. It finds the infamous Kazakh reporter (Sacha Baron Cohen) returning to America for another go-round. Those familiar with Baron Cohen's work will know what to expect: It's outrageous, but it's also a strategic use of satire to mock, among other things, sexism, anti-Semitism, and willful ignorance concerning science and COVID-19. There simply isn't enough space to list all of the movie's sexual jokes and references; essentially, they're nonstop. Expect to see images of sexual positions, photos of male genitalia, and videos from pornographic websites. There's also frequent profanity, including "f--k" and "c--t," and some drinking. A joke references rape. While pretending to be a country singer at a right-wing protest, Borat gets the audience to enthusiastically cheer the idea of chopping up journalists "just like the Saudis," as well as violence toward scientists. One of the more shocking scenes involves a prominent American politician who's shown on his back in bed with his hands down his pants after drinking and flirting with a woman who's pretending to be a reporter from a conservative news outlet while also pretending to be Borat's teenage daughter. (The politician claims that he was only tucking in his shirt.) Other scenes show older men making creepy remarks to Borat about his teenage daughter.
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What's the story?
In BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM, we learn that Kazakh reporter Borat Margaret Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) has been in a prison labor camp since his American reportage brought shame and disgrace to the people of Kazakhstan. Widely blamed for Kazakhstan's problems, Borat is given a chance to make amends by the government ... or face execution. His mission is to bring Johnny the Monkey, Kazakhstan's biggest TV star, to the United States, and present him as a gift to Vice President Mike Pence. Before leaving, Borat returns to his village to reconnect with his family. They now want nothing to do with him, except for his teenage daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova), who begs Borat to take her with him. He refuses, but Tutar nonetheless finds a way to reach the United States with him. When Johnny the Monkey dies in transit under mysterious circumstances, it's decided that Tutar will have the chance to follow in the footsteps of her favorite "Disney" heroine, "Melania," and marry a powerful man. As they travel across America, Borat and Tutar get to know each other better, and Tutar starts to learn that what she's been taught about the origin and place of women in the world has been a horrible lie. The father and daughter part ways as the coronavirus pandemic begins to spread across the United States, and while Borat hides out in a house deep in the woods with two men who fervently believe in conspiracy theories involving the Chinese, the Clintons, and Barack Obama, Tutar finds work as a reporter for a conservative news outlet. Borat must find a way to reunite with Tutar, and Tutar must decide whether she should continue to assert her independence or become the submissive wife of a powerful political figure.
Is it any good?
This comedy is as darkly hilarious, disturbingly crass, and incredibly fearless as you'd expect, and then some. In the 2000s, Sacha Baron Cohen gained fame and notoriety by taking Andy Kaufman-style put-on performance art to audacious and discomforting levels not seen since Kaufman's untimely passing. Through his different characters, he revealed the toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance that's come to define the dark side of 21st century America, so it's only fitting that Kazakhstan's most infamous reporter should reappear in the United States to experience the discord, division, and raging pandemic of 2020. That we can even be shocked by what Borat reveals in these scenes after months of exhausting news and caustic incivility alone makes it remarkable.
The credit for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm's dozens of laugh-out-loud moments isn't solely Baron Cohen's. It's a cliché to describe a performance as "Oscar-worthy," but as Borat's ambitious teenage daughter, Tutar, Bakalova delivers a brave performance that, in terms of fearlessness and gut laughter, gives her on-screen dad a run for his money. And just as Borat has proven adept at uncovering racism and anti-Semitism, Tutar (aka Sandra Jessica Parker Sagdiyev) brings out the appalling male creepiness in some, including and especially in one of the movie's most controversial scenes, which involves Rudy Giuliani in what is either a compromising position or an innocent effort at tucking in his shirt deep into his pants ... while on his back on a hotel room bed. How you view this incident will no doubt be as much of an ideological Rorschach test as anything else in contemporary American life, but, in the context of the rest of the movie, it evokes shock, disgust, and laughter in spite of everything. It's one of many such moments of gut-wrenching laughter in what's ultimately a brilliant mockumentary of an era that, for many, can't end soon enough.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about satire. How does Baron Cohen use the Borat character to mock sexism, anti-Semitism, and willful ignorance? Are there any moments in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm where you think he went too far? Who decides what "too far" is?
Satire and parody are often used as a way to use laughter to address serious concerns. What serious concerns do you think Baron Cohen is trying to communicate as Borat?
Deeply uncomfortable situations create much of the comedy in this movie. Why do people often laugh at uncomfortable situations? What are some other examples of comedies that rely on uncomfortable situations?
Ask your kids how they think viewers who identify with some of the intolerant or over-earnest people Borat interviews will feel. Will they see themselves in a new light? Or will they feel upset by the on-screen encounters?
- On DVD or streaming: October 23, 2020
- Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova
- Director: Jason Woliner
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and language
- Awards/Honors: Golden Globe
- Last updated: March 19, 2021
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