Early into Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakhstani journalist once again finds himself wandering the streets of an American town’s central business district. Only this time, 14 years after his cinematic debut, Baron Cohen’s signature character is instantly recognizable. Excited white men shout back catchphrases, demand autographs and selfies. Borat correctly concludes he’ll need to disguise himself while crossing the “US&A” on a second secret mission. We soon find him in a costume shop, where he discovers a cheap getup that looks suspiciously familiar: gray suit, dark hair, bushy mustache. The packaging reads “Stupid Foreign Reporter.”

It’s a good gag. Subsequent Moviefilm contains many others, some that made me laugh so loud and hard that I had multiple cameo appearances during my husband’s Zoom call half-an-apartment away. More crucially, the bit is a sly acknowledgement that Borat succeeded as well as it did because the title character was not only weirdly specific, but also totally anonymous. As a work of guerilla comedy, Baron Cohen’s hapless interlocutors weren’t in on the joke. Its brilliance depended on pure dramatic irony. The audience understood Borat was a made-up agent of unenlightened cultural chaos. Those who came across him were oblivious. Hilarity – and biting social commentary – ensued.

That’s the fundamental glitch with Subsequent Moviefilm, one of meta-veracity, which keeps it from achieving the same subversive heights of its predecessor. Though Baron Cohen attempts to dupe his marks with various guises (usually a combination of fat suits and beards) that scream PROUD TRUMP VOTER, he retains Borat’s distinctive syntax and diction. Imagine Mike Myers shouting “yeah baby, yeah!” in an English accent while dressed as a Southern Baptist missionary. The sheer dissonance of it all would at least raise a yellow flag or two. Never mind those cameras and boom mics over there! We have release forms to sign.

Dutiful skepticism aside, I should reiterate the peals of hyena-like laughter the film provoked during both viewings. (Yes, I subsequently revisited this Moviefilm for a quick fact check and got swallowed whole all over again.) Taken at face value, Sacha Baron Cohen has pulled off another unbelievable coup. The scripted story is overly complex as a framing device (though the same could be said about the first Borat picture). But the introduction of Borat’s daughter Tutar is a stroke of genius. Played by Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, she is both Baron Cohen’s proxy and equal. Scenes set at a cotillion, a Republican Women’s Club meeting and a luxury hotel suite (you know, with Rudy Giuliani) underscore recent calls for an Academy Award nomination. The fabulous Bakalova is a vector for the anti-misogyny themes that run throughout Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Her performance alone is worth the price of entry, which is zero dollars if you already subscribe to Amazon Prime. And that is very nice, indeed.

Sacha Baron Cohen has pulled off another unbelievable coup.
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