"Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come." -- Herman Melville

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January 5, 2007

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
US 2006, Directed by Larry Charles
Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, and Dan Mazer
Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, and Todd Phillips
(***) of four

A ballsy piece of confrontation cinema from the fearless Cohen, Borat does an admirable job of stretching the one-note character to feature length without continually retracing its steps, but it nonetheless feels too been-there-done-that, as if it's about three years too late. At his best, Borat brings into glaring, uncomfortable focus everything we love about Americans: willful ignorance, xeno/homophobia, insensitivity, religious intolerance--all the hallmarks of BushWorld. Many of his targets are too easy, though, and aren't exactly covering new ground (wait a minute, you're telling me there are drunken, misogynistic frat guys out there? My world is shattered!) That's the biggest problem with Borat: we've simply seen it all before. Granted, it's rarely been done as intelligently and with as much as earnest commitment as Cohen gives (this is a positive review after all), but it's not like the whole "make people indict themselves by unwittingly exposing their own prejudices" thing hasn't been done ad nauseam by reality TV (even the American Ali G Show is nearly four years old and the British version is approaching seven). As such, it seems a little behind the times now. If you love the character or want to see what all the fuss is about, there are plenty of laughs to be had and it's certainly worth your time, but temper your expectations from all the "funniest movie of all time" hyperbole that's been flying around.