Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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

Film #293


Kazakh TV talking head Borat 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.

Year 1, Day 299

BEFORE: I had my last day of classes today and there are only five more days until I’m done with finals for the semester. I really don’t want to fall any farther behind than I already am (almost a week behind schedule) so I’m going to try as hard as I can to maintain the pace. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan - simply Borat from here on out - takes today’s slot. I’m going to try and keep this as concise as possible. So lets go.

AFTER: Borat was met with much acclaim when it was released in 2006 and remains to this day one of those films that many have heard the name of. Despite this widespread popularity, and the release of several other similar films, I never got around to watching what is probably considered Sacha Baron Cohen’s (last seen in Les Misérables) crowning achievement. My reaction: it’s very good; not very nice as Borat himself exclaims.

Since I’m trying to keep this brief, I’m going to call in the wise words of Roger Ebert who really liked the film. This quote from his introduction seems to sum up his view:

I think it is, as everybody has been saying, the funniest movie in years. And not because it is dumb (although it’s very dumb), but because it is smart (and it is very smart).

And that’s where my criticism and praise lies: in the intelligence of the film. Ebert likes the film (so much that he gave it four out of four stars) because the film is aware of stereotypes and racist remarks and uses audience’s assumptions to its advantage. To be fair though, Ebert also says countless times that the film and its humor isn’t for everyone and may not appeal to you.

Here’s my take on it. I very much agree with Ebert just on a much smaller scale. Borat, both the film and the character, are very smart and have a very definitive style of humor that they utilize - one that is very shrewd, lewd, and crude. But at the same time it didn’t really make me laugh or form any strong connection with the film whatsoever. For me, Borat was much more of a passive film, one I could turn on and leave running in the background (by no means in a public setting) to pop in for a scene or two so I could get a little chuckle. Yes, it’s smart, but I wouldn’t say it was as brilliant as Ebert makes it out to be in his mind.

As with any film, comedies in particular, final judgement lies in your own hands. My goal here is to chronicle my thoughts and offer helpful suggestions and recommendations for which films I think you should watch and for what reasons it may appeal to you. Borat was on the verge for me. I got enough of their style of humor that the film remained entertaining but it wasn’t as funny as I was expecting or is for others. I can safely say that if you are easily offended, do not watch this movie. For anyone else, give it a shot. You may really enjoy it, or if you’re like me, it will serve as a good filler film, one you can play in the background for peripheral entertainment.

RATING: 3 out of 5