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

Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Larry Charles
Written and starring Sacha Baron Cohen
Genre: Mock Documentary
Rated: R
Running Time: 82 minutes

by Jon Minners

Once in awhile, a movie comes along that defines a generation.  And strangely, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, is that film. 

We all know the movie is good.  There is almost no point in reviewing it.  This is one of those untouchable films, a movie that can be torn apart by critic and still do well. 

But the movie was adored by critics and unlike Snakes on a Plane, 20th Century Fox marketed the movie well and pushed it enough not to make us sick of it before it was released.  Borat came out in theaters just as interest was piquing in the film. 

And Boratís content made it an instant target.  The country of Kazakhstan actually reached out to President George Bush to improve relations between the two countries and also took out ads in papers to address what they felt were misconceptions about their country; misconceptions furthered by the filmís content. 

The controversy actually did the movie some good, leading to the number of theaters where the film would show being cut to 800.  The controversy garnered more positive heat for the film and patrons had to see it. 

Not since when I was a kid going to see Return of the Jedi had I seen so many people lined up to see a movie in my life.  The anticipation was high.  People were dressed as Borat or one of the other characters from the Ali G Show that sponsored the movie.  It was an amazing sight, one that made you believe you were going to see the Blair Witch Project and not the movie toured as the greatest comedy ever. 

But what they didnít tell anyone was that this movie may be the most socially relevant movie to ever hit the theaters and make the kind of money it is making.  In just 800 theaters, they made over $25 million and with those kinds of numbers, the buzz it generates will go a long way to helping the movie make even more money when it goes into the number of theaters it was supposed to be shown in prior to the controversy previews of the movie created across the globe. 

The movie follows the Jewish hating Kazakhstani TV personality Borat, as he is dispatched to the United States to report on the "greatest country in the world." With a documentary crew in tow, Borat becomes more interested in locating and marrying Pamela Anderson than on his assignment.  So from New York, Borat travels to California, making various stops in between to learn about American culture. 

The film starts with a backwards view of Kazakhstani life, as Borat makes out with someone who viewers assume is his wife, until he notifies everyone that it is indeed his sister.  Villagers rape women and animals and so on.  The country even has the Running of the Jews, which like the Running of the Bulls, features a person in an ogre-like costume chasing villagers.  Itís hilarious, as Cohen is actually a Jewish man and sort of gets away with the humor. 

Viewers can see where the controversy comes in, but the fact is, Borat sees equally dysfunctional people in America.  He runs into a southern community that teaches him social norms of America and tolerate everything he does from insulting the women to coming down with a bag of turd and asking where he can dump it, but explode in anger and become threatening the minute he invites a black woman into their home.  The black men he encounters are more than happy to teach him their style and educate him in the finer ways of making fun of white people, including the use of the term, vanilla face

Humor comes from this social commentary and is further complimented when he and his producer run into Jewish bed and breakfast owners who are very welcoming.  Fearing the worst, the two believe they are shape shifters, vastly different from the presentation of Jews in their country and even believe two roaches are Jewish people they throw money at in an effort to distract and escape. 

Further hilarity comes in the form of a very traumatizing hotel room fight between Borat and his producer and a scene in New York where the newscaster masturbates to window mannequins.  When Borat finally encounters Pamela Anderson, viewers will be amazed by what occurs. 

You will be entertained from start to finish and walk out repeating phrases and talking about the movie for some time to come, eager to buy the DVD and its special features when that is released, but one thing you will unexpectedly discover is a better look at the world around you.  We freely make fun of cultures that are different from our own, but what Borat actually teaches us is that we are all dysfunctional in our own way and while it can be fun to mock these differences it is also a lot easier to accept them. 

See this film.  Buy the DVD when it is released.  Sit back, be entertained and watch with an open mind.  You can actually learn a lot from Borat

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