Keeping in style with my viewing of Team America yesterday, I saw today as an opportunity to revisit another classic comedy of the 2000s: Borat. And just like Team America, Borat held a very special place in my heart when it was first released. It came out in 2006 during the height of Myspace usage, and there was a special promotion that if you included the film’s Myspace page in your top 8. We went to the screening at the Cherry Creek Mall and it was, without question, the funniest film I had ever seen.
I knew a little bit about Da Ali G Show on HBO where the Sacha Baron Cohen character first found fame but not enough to the point where I knew every Borat sketch. So the film was a raucous surprise of laughter, a brilliant piece of satire that showcased the true nature of individuals when they are communicating with someone who isn’t as smart or as perceptive as they are. Some people greet Borat and are patient and understanding of his international handicaps. Others see Borat as a vehicle which they can impart their twisted political and social views. But everyone sees Borat as a lesser, and that’s just what’s so fascinating.
The movie holds up today just as much as it did back in 2006. Like Team America, it focuses on the war on terror (or in Borat’s case, the war of terror), so it feels slightly dated there. But it does showcase a deeply divided country, with more intellectual individuals living in the northeast cities, and poorer, conservative individuals living in the south. Cohen must have filmed months worth of footage that never saw the light of day, so it’s worth considering if he was intentionally trying to portray a divided country or if that’s how things actually happened. I’m putting my money on the latter.
But the film has a deep humanizing component to it. Even the individuals with warped political viewpoints, like the fratboys or rodeo head, want Borat to like them. They want him to be their friend, even though he is so bizarre and strange. While the movie shines a light on our hidden prejudices, it also unearths hidden connections or our desire to connect, whether it be with Borat a dinner party with a prostitute or whether its with a 400 pound man 69-ing Borat to his heart’s discontent. It combines the best physical comedy of Charlie Chaplin and the keen social and societal observations of someone like Jane Gooddall, with a lot of Trey Parker and Matt Stone splattered on top. It is the funniest movie made in the last 20 years.