After achieving global fame for one of Cohen’s many alter egos, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm cannot help but repeat itself. Various American vendors and clerks give him way too much latitude, again, and miscommunications lead to hilarity, again. A plastic surgeon is repeatedly baited into saying ‘titty.’ Holocaust jokes are made and the jokes work. Cohen even dips back into his Da Ali G Show days for a song routine that gets a crowd of rednecks to sing along to horrifying lyrics. What differentiates the sequel is a recognition that Borat is way too famous to travel the country again, so he spends much of the film in costume, an additional layer that can only add distance to Borat’s fundamentally warm personality. There’s a reason it was Borat that hit for Cohen and not Bruno, and a sequel that hides Borat is going to be at a disadvantage. Cohen covers for some of this gap with the presence of Tutar. Bakalova, an incredible find, matches Cohen’s willingness to do anything that she can get away with and then push a little farther. As depicted, her self-realization and empowerment would work even if it didn’t happen alongside graphic menstruation rituals and run-ins at a crisis pregnancy center.
In his relationship with Tutar, Borat provides a compelling example of deprogramming, something a lot of the film’s on-camera subjects could use. So much ink has been spent in the time before Borat Subsequent Film about losing family members to right-wing media or Qanon, and more has been spent after on the best way to sway an anti-vaxxer. Borat is just as deluded as so many of the people he meets, and just like he’s the only one of all of them who would put on his trademark man-kini, he also seems to be the only one capable of the humility of admitting that he was wrong. As funny as Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is, it’s also deeply depressing, and far moreso than the original with its backroom racism. The intervening years have moved the racism into the foyer, but if the sequel isn’t fully up to the original’s standard and the country it primarily takes place in is circling the drain, Borat himself has managed to improve by casting aside superstition and unchallenged custom. At least a fictional character can earnestly learn to love his daughter, even if it’s amongst grifting lawyers and throngs of rubes lustily rooting for the death of Anthony Fauci. B