There are two contradictory ways to view this movie. It’s a dumb screwball comedy, sure, but it also tries to expose the depressing underbelly of the modern world.
Part of the problem is that it rarely challenges the views that it exposes. It is content to let people make fools of themselves, but never asks them to reflect on their foolishness. Nor does it give us the tools to tackle hate except through exposure and mockery.
If you’re a small business owner, and the shop is struggling, are you really going to turn down a racist request from a customer? If you’re desperate to make a sale, are you going to say anything to keep the customer happy? Perhaps I’m giving too much sympathy for people who don’t deserve it; but I found it a cruel sort of mockery. And, again, it doesn’t challenge their ideas or give them a chance to explain themselves.
Obviously it is selectively edited; we don’t know how many businesses threw them out, or gave them short shrift. We don’t know how prevalent their views are – or whether they’re in the minority.
There are moments of genius – especially the Debutante’s Ball. Perhaps the only point in the movie where people are faced with their own hypocrisy. If you’re at a fertility ritual, you can’t be surprised when people display their fertility! But, again, there’s no deeper examination of the phenomenon. What do the “daughters” think about the ball? There’s a withering comment from one of them towards their lecherous father – but that’s it.
The “sting” at the end feels kinda weak. I know nothing in particular about the former Mayor – but being overly genial with a reporter doesn’t seem like a capital crime. Is his flirting a bit creepy? Maybe, but he’s trying to craft a favourable impression with a reporter. Is he tucking his shirt in, or touching himself up? It’s pretty indistinct and I didn’t care to zoom and enhance. But it leaves enough room for a sceptical viewer to dismiss any allegations of impropriety. And so it fails at being a devastating take-down.
Borat (and Ali G) work best as episodic characters. I think that each segment of this movie would have been better as a stand-alone 30 minute special. But perhaps, to modern sensibilities, it is more effective as a TikTok-length clip?
On to the comedy. Maybe it was the bottle of wine I consumed throughout the film (and it’d be hard to watch sober), but it is painfully funny. Like any sequel, it relies a bit too heavily on tired catchphrases. The gross-out comedy and outrageous stunts are an acquired taste – but are executed superbly.
It is crude, exploitative, and disgusting. Not exactly high-brow comedy, but funny enough on its own terms.