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

Available at Amazon.com

Director :

Larry Charles

Cast :

Sacha Baron Cohen .Borat Sagdiyev
Ken Davitian .Azamat Bagatov

The Movie

In any other year, Borat would have been just another top-notch comedy in a field of good ones. But in a year when only two pure comedies can be considered anything but awful, Clerks II and Accepted, Borat was perhaps 2006’s funniest movie by default in a less than bumper field. Though one could barely separate the film from its inordinate hype as the so-called “funniest film of the last 20 years,” it was still a charming comedy from the twisted mind of Sasha Barn Cohen.

Officially titled Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the film follows the misadventures of Kazakhstan’s most famous television reporter: Borat Sagdiyev (Sasha Baron Cohen). Assigned by the foreign ministry to go to the United States and learn things that can be applied back to Kazakhstan in order to make it better for all citizens of the Eastern European/Pan-Asian country. So Borat and his trusted producer Azamat (Ken Davitian) travel to New York City, where Borat’s misadventures lead him to the miracle of late night television and one of the most watched television shows ever: Baywatch.

Borat falls deeply in love with Pamela Anderson at first site and makes a resolution: go to California and make her his wife. Abandoning his mission to learn about America by interviewing its inhabitants, Borat embarks on a quest across country to find her in Hollywood. It’s a hilariously offensive film that just touches on greatness without actually crossing into that territory.

Originally crafted on his television show, Sasha Baron Cohen’s character interacting with America from East to West is something to behold. Never breaking character throughout some rather interesting scenes and sequences, Cohen has definitely brought out the best possible performance of the character as could be possible. Originally crafted in short segments, it’s always a challenge to take a character whose worked best in small doses and center a 90 minute film around it. Cohen is game for it, as he focuses on what works most effectively from the character (his interactions with the unsuspecting public) and away from what doesn’t (long monologues). His facial mannerisms sell the moments much more effectively than anything he could do or say; most times interacting with common people it’s what he does that makes the film good.

The only real problem with the film is that it doesn’t have what it takes to go from a good comedy to being a great one. The key to any great comedy is that 95% or more of the humor works; it makes the stomach hurt from so much work. While Borat has more laughs in it than any film of 2006 so far, there are plenty of misses in the humor department to leave some awkward moments throughout the film. Cohen’s trying as hard as he can, but several subplots are tacked on that are obviously scripted moments that don’t work at all. The film’s strength is Borat interacting with people, using his rather unique take on things like Jewish people and interactions with the opposite sex to get some amusing reactions out of people, and the film uses this often to keep the laughs flowing. The problem is that Larry Charles interrupts much of the flow for moments of Cohen with other actors as opposed to the unsuspecting; it makes what’s intended to be a poorly made documentary look like a poor attempt at hiding the obvious.

That’s part of what makes the film so good for the most part. The film’s production values and camerawork are so poor that it feels like one is watching a second rate documentary out of Kazakhstan. The temptation would be to bring top-notch production values to this film, and it wouldn’t be out of place in he sort of documentary style films coming out of Hollywood currently, but Charles wisely makes the film look bad in order to make it plausible. Certain shots look relatively professional but for the most part the film’s amateurish style lends it the sort of credibility it needs.

Borat, then, is one of many things in this year of film. It’s a terrific debut for a cult artist into the mainstream, it’s a solid riff on the documentary and it’s easily the funniest film of 2006 so far. While that doesn’t mean as much as it could, as the film would play second fiddle to a better comedy like The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Bad Santa in any other year just to name a few, in this down year for comedy it’s a crown jewel in an otherwise sub-par year.

The Audio

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 format, the film has a terrific audio component. Time and care were obviously placed in this track as it takes full advantage of the format, as the dialogue comes through wonderfully.

The Video

Borat was filmed purposefully with documentary style production values and cinematography, leaving it looking intentionally poor on occasion, but the DVD looks fantastic. The colors are strong and well-separated, giving a clean and crisp picture.

The Extras

Deleted Scenes are included, nine in all, that were excised from the film’s original cut. Featuring some good comedic scenes, including a newscast following the rodeo scene, that could’ve easily been placed in the movie proper. There’s a montage of clips, including Borat working at a fast food restaurant and the whacky moments involved in it.

Also included is a compilation of clips from the tour to promote the film worldwide. Including clips of Borat in various situations, from inquiring about certain body aspects of Conan O’Brien to premieres at the Toronto and Cannes film festivals amongst others, it’s interesting to see Cohen in character in events serious and comedic alike.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Borat
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

8
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

9
THE EXTRAS

4.5
REPLAY VALUE

9
OVERALL
9
(NOT AN AVERAGE)