Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (3 stars)

Borat 2

Sacha Baron Cohen's Kazakh clown returns for an enjoyably silly sequel

It's hard not to admire Sacha Baron Cohen's balls, and that's not just because of his fondness for a mankini. His seemingly fearless approach to comedy has resulted in some memorable moments over the years. This belated sequel to 2006's Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated mockumentary – produced on the sly – sees his hapless Kazakh TV personality Borat Sagdiyev caught up in the unfolding pandemic, and climaxes in one of the comedian's most gobsmacking 'gets' to date.

Directed by Jason Woliner (a specialist in TV comedy), Subsequent Moviefilm follows Borat – who has spent the last 14 years languishing in a gulag after bringing shame on his nation with his American antics – as he's given the chance to restore Kazakhstan's 'glorious' reputation. The plan is for him to return to the US to offer the gift of a 'sexy monkey' to Mike Pence, in a roundabout attempt to endear Premier Nazarbayez (Dani Popescu) to Trump, and secure him a position in the global strongman club. Borat is accompanied by his stowaway daughter Tutar (the relatively unknown Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, from TV's Gomorrah, getting an 'introducing' credit here), who up until this point has lived amongst the family's livestock.

Once again, the focus is primarily on pranks. While some victims are clearly more in on the joke than others, these do elicit some priceless reactions: a fertility dance is a high, or low point, depending on your squeamishness. Story-wise it can feel cobbled together but, given the context of a developing public health emergency, the eight credited screenwriters were no doubt making alterations on the fly, and it does manage to capture America's incompetence at containing Covid. If Baron Cohen is scuppered by the character's recognisability this time round – the first film was a massive commercial success – it gives the actor the opportunity to don a variety of ridiculous disguises, and he's hugely aided in his efforts by the talented and equivalently game Bakalova, whose own character undergoes a makeover before finding feminism.

The shock-value and success of Baron Cohen's shtick is undoubtedly lessened by familiarity, and the targets can be predictable – a pro-life clinic seems a bit of a gimme, for example. Nonetheless, it's hilarious watching Borat egging on a crowd of Trump supporters during an 'impromptu' musical performance, or marvelling over a mobile phone, which he mistakes for a calculator, and there's even a smattering of personal improvement as he bonds with his teenage daughter. It's tough to top the original but they've clearly had a fine time trying.

Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from Fri 23 Oct.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 35min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Jason Woliner
  • Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova
  • UK release: 23 October 2020