Borat proves to be the Python of our generation.
I say this as a die-hard Monty Python fan not because the humour is on the same level or follows the same guidelines (in fact, the common ground is here is that it follows no guidelines) but because both comedy teams mask their sketches in a feature film, passing them off as a story when it becomes glaringly clear that the latter is an elaborate pretext under which to have outrageous, absurdist and side-splittingly fun in a series of genius gags.
Yet for all of Borat's subsequent disorganisation and warped narrative, we are first served a gorgeously condensed introduction to our character in his village in Kazakhstan. This segment was possibly the biggest crowd-pleaser in my theatre and perhaps rightly so, for I would call it the film's goldmine in terms of sheer laugh-out-loud humour. Here we are introduced to Borat's sister ("She is number-four prostitute in whole of Kazakhstan."), whom he kisses on the mouth, his main interests (ping-pong, sunbathing and "watch ladies make toilet") as well as a wide variety of hilarious native Kazakhs. Undoubtedly the success of the introduction stems from a combination of novelty and a culture shock.
Once the sprawling surge of Kazakhstani culture subsides, Borat flies to New York City to make a movie-film about the glorious US and A. The booming Russian ethnic score melts into Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talking' At Me" and the film gets ambitious: it spoofs Jon Voight's incongruous cowboy character walking down Manhattan in Midnight Cowboy (1969). This I found a pleasant surprise, but the referential spoofs end here and the rest is all Sascha Baron Cohen and we couldn't be happier.
The second half of Borat is arguably less compelling. It is hard to tell why, for the humour remains consistently good and there is an almost exponential stupidity with our Borat character as the sets out to go to California to marry Pamela Anderson. I would not go as far as to say the novelty "wears off", but we are a little more settled now and Borat has found his safe footing. Next, however, the film totally floors whatever safeness you may have with one of the most unspeakably graphic hotel room scenes I have ever seen. I won't give anything away, but rest assured that some viewers (*males*) will watch in horrified silence while others will literally cramp up from laughing so violently. I belong more to the latter category.
As Borat travels through America, there is a wealth of juxtapositions to be found when he interacts with the people members of the white house, television broadcasters, etiquette teachers, Christian fundamentalists and Jews all offers layered hilarity and a consistent cloud of laughter kept hovering in the air. Sadly, it was not always directed toward Borat (but most of the time) but toward some truly idiotic hick Americans. When I was informed the film used many candid takes, I can only hope the unreasonably creepy Jesus convention was *not* one of them.
In conclusion, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)" is a towering comedy achievement. It is apparent that Sascha Baron Cohen has done something truly cool here and has created an anti-semitic, misogynist and bigoted character that aptly embodies all racy taboos. As an actor he is unmistakably brave and uninhibited, which makes it easy for the film to lose itself in a tornado of gags, spoofs, bizarre one-liners and graphic jokes. The most fun I've had in a theatre since...forever!!!
9 out of 10