Fourteen years after Borat, co-writer and star Sacha Baron Cohen donned the famous oversized gray suit and lush mustache again for its sequel. While the Borat Subsequent Moviefilm prides itself in revealing the same American ugliness as Borat, it does so without the original’s deft touch. Where Borat allowed Baron Cohen to amble from one improvised moment to the next, the Subsequent Moviefilm is overplotted, worrying more about the connective tissue than the substance.
The Subsequent Movefilm picks up 14 years after the original. Borat has been imprisoned for humiliating his native Kazakhstan with the first movie, but he’s offered a second chance if he is able to deliver Johnny the Monkey, an actual monkey and the country’s Minister of Culture, to Donald Trump. Before leaving for the U.S., Borat learns that he has a daughter named Tutar (Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova). Tutar asks to accompany Borat on his mission, but he refuses.
Upon arriving in the U.S., Borat learns that Tutar has smuggled herself into the country in Johnny the Monkey’s shipping container and eaten him. Borat informs the Kazakh higher-ups of the news, and his mission changes. He is to deliver Tutar to Vice President Mike Pence (hence the movie’s lengthy alternative title, Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) in exchange for his freedom.
Baron Cohen’s fish out of water act is as sidesplitting as it was when the character was created for Da Ali G Show nearly two decades ago. The improv still works, but the Subsequent Moviefilm hones in on Borat and Tutar’s relationship. Kudos to Baron Cohen and his eight co-writers for trying to find the humanity in a satirical comedy, but audiences aren’t watching Borat for the warm fuzzies.
The Subsequent Moviefilm’s lack of improv could be attributed to the pandemic, as production was clearly complicated by COVID-19. Borat wanders deserted American streets during the initial lockdown before being taken in by two QAnon conspiracy theorists. The character works best when his views are validated by everyday Americans. The Kazakh journalists earnestly presents his own extremist opinions, many of them deeply rooted in racism, sexism, or conspiracy, and Americans go along with, fail to object to, or, in some cases, co-opt his radical views.
Sadly, Borat was a better fit for 2006 than 2020. The United States lurched dramatically to the right since the first movie was released during the Bush administration. The first movie revealed extreme white supremacy and authoritarian pockets in the United States. Since then, fanatical—and often dangerous—views have found a mainstream audience through Fox News, right-wing websites, Facebook, and national politics. If Borat was a car alarm, the Subsequent Moviefilm is a police report for grand theft auto.