Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (R)

Comedy 84 November 3, 2006
By J.hoberman
Borat is funnier than its malapropic title -- the audience with whom I saw the movie wasn't laughing so much as howling -- and even more difficult to parse. Eyes wide, face fixed in an avid grin, Sacha Baron Cohen's ersatz Kazakh TV reporter, the ineffably oafish Borat Sagdiyev, goes looking for America. It's a documentary of sorts. The road trip -- he's afraid to fly, "in case the Jews repeated their attack of 9-11" -- takes him from New York to Los Angeles (where he hopes to bag Pamela Anderson) by way of Mississippi, and well beyond the boundaries of taste. Not simply a jackass, Borat (like Baron Cohen's earlier creation, Ali G) specializes in one-on-ones with unwary professionals, snared by their willingness to humor a hapless foreigner and desire to appear on (even Kazakh) TV. Stooges range from a self-identified humor consultant ("Do you ever laugh on people with retardation?" Borat wonders) to a car salesman (asked if the automobile is outfitted with a "pussy magnet") to a pair of pols, former Georgia Representative Bob Barr and perennial candidate Alan Keyes. How does Baron Cohen keep a straight face? If ever there was a movie that demanded a documentary devoted to its making, it's this one.
Larry Charles Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Castro, Pamela Anderson, Ken Davitian, Alexandra Paul Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer Sacha Baron Cohen, Jay Roach 20th Century Fox