Sacha Baron Cohen is easily the funniest man at the movies this year. First, he showed up in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby as a gay French NASCAR driver and upstaged Will Ferrell ("Hey Ricky ... I watched Highlander! It was shit!"). Now, he headlines in Borat, a noxious comedy chock full of racism, sexism and saggy man asses. Some of the stuff that happens in this film is either too funny to be believed, or so repugnant that you just have to tip your hat to the insanity and give it high marks for courage.
For those of you unfamiliar with Borat, he's a character Cohen created for his Da Ali G television show (one of three alter egos for that program). A native of Kazakhstan, Borat has been sent to the United States to observe our culture, oblivious to the fact that anti-Semitism and offering women money for sex are generally frowned upon in our country.
The film, one for the mockumentary genre, is basically a series of stunts; it has a little in common with Jackass. In fact, there's a male nude scene that results in something that would probably make Johnny Knoxville puke and Steve-O retire for good if they were forced to do such a thing. It's not surprising that this film needed two directors during its production. Todd Phillips (Old School) left the project shortly after filming a rodeo scene where Borat mangles "The Star-Spangled Banner." Too bad, Todd ... this would've been your funniest movie yet.
After catching some American television, Borat falls in love with Pamela Anderson. His goal quickly changes from studying American culture to making Pamela his wife. This prompts a cross-country trek in a broken-down ice cream truck, replete with an annoyed bear in the back, which he has purchased to protect himself from Jews. The destination is Hollywood, and that gives Borat plenty of stops along the way.
He gets a driver's test where he attempts to drink alcohol and pick up women while on the road. He has a meeting with a women's rights group that doesn't go well at all, especially when he points out a man's brain is larger than a woman's. When his partner defiles his Pamela Anderson magazines, a fight breaks out in a hotel, resulting in the naked-male wrestling mentioned above. (Seriously: Watch out for this scene. It is the stuff that severe trauma is made of.) When Borat ends up in the presence of Anderson, very bad things happen.
Cohen never breaks character. Dressed in a dingy gray suit (which he apparently never washes ... seriously), donning bushy hair and a major mustache (Cohen grew them out for the role), the character gets away with amazing things due to his extreme naiveté. While Borat falls somewhat short of lovable (he's quite the anti-Semite), he does manage to make you feel sort of sorry for him as he hopelessly wallows in his ignorance.
While Borat is certainly an offensive individual, it is often the American citizens whom he encounters who take the cake for being morally disgusting, especially one particular homophobic cowboy he encounters at the rodeo. Some folks simply run like hell from Borat, unaccustomed to a man walking up to them on the street and trying to make nice. Of course, Borat runs after them, wanting very much to say hello.
Cohen and director Larry Charles pull no punches. As Mel Brooks did with Blazing Saddles, they attack crude racism and sexism by making their comic character as openly foul as possible. It's a fine line to walk, but they do it well. You won't believe what you'll be laughing at, but you'll be laughing, for sure. Borat is bringing in big box office, but don't bring the kids. You don't want them quoting Borat at school, unless expulsion and locker-room beatings are desirable in your circle.