Friday, November 03, 2006

The Long-Awaited Borat Movie

Rotten Tomatoes is showing that Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Glorious Benefit of Kazakhstan has an average of 100% positive reviews. Well, after a busy week at work and a three week preparation for the movie, consisting of watching seasons 1 and 2 of "Da Ali G Show" on DVD, I was ready to fully enjoy the Borat movie. That it was getting almost universally great buzz was highly encouraging, especially because there are so few quality movies inspired by television characters, and therefore critics are wary of being swiftly disappointed by this genre (duds include It's Pat and Stuart Saves his Family, and the only successful TV-to-big screen transition that I can think of right now is Wayne's World).

Unfortunately, Borat was underwhelming, and I am not saying that based on any contrarian agenda of my own. Like I said, I wanted to love Borat. I love Sacha Baron Cohen and want to believe that this young, funny, attractive, Jewish man, embodies sheer brilliance. And yet, Borat just wasn't that funny. I admit, I laughed myself to tears at the most memorable scene in the movie, whose contents I will not give away--anyone who sees the movie will know exactly the scene--but that was partially out of sheer astonishment. Otherwise, I think this reviewer puts it best:

It's offensively funny in places but it can't sustain itself for a feature length running time and it's not nearly as clever or as fun as it should be.

...A handful of these situations are hilarious, but the problem of the movie is that it's not structured as a satire that asks us to laugh at ourselves by seeing our inconsistencies through the eyes of an outsider. It asks us to laugh at the outsider by seeing him as a contemptible boob.

The satire that "asks us to laugh at ourselves by seeing our inconsistencies through the eyes of an outsider" is what makes the Borat installment on "Da Ali G Show" so brilliant. One of my favorite parts of a Borat segement is when someone starts explaining to him how we do things in America, and when Borat's American interviewees end up advocating suppression that should supposedly be an exclusive provenance of Borat's Kazakhstan--all while declaring the U.S. #1 because of our freedoms--we are reminded that the best comedy comes from reality, even if it must be provoked a bit.

This is why the sheer bufoonery that drives much of the Borat movie struck me as the dumbing down of the Borat concept by a studio that believed it needed to broaden its film-going audience by trading the clever for the obnoxious. Or maybe I am going too easy on Sacha Baron Cohen when I put the disappointment of the movie at the studio's feet. Either way, Borat could have been better.

1 comment:

Reel Fanatic said...

Wow .. I think this is the first negative review I've seen .. Most TV-to-movie characters fall flat for me, so I'm hoping Borat will be the exception when I finally get to see it later today