Jagshemash. My name Rory. I make review Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. You read!
I have just returned from a special preview of the Borat movie months ahead of the full worldwide release, an event made somewhat less exclusive by the fact that it was a free promotion run by MySpace. Also by the fact that the cinema was only half full. Which obviously made my showing up two hours in advance to secure my seat a little unnecessary.
Verdict in short: it is, as any sane person would have expected, a very funny film. But I felt a little let down. Clearly Borat derives most of his humour—with the obvious exception of his Kazakhstan-based segments at the beginning and end—from the genuine reactions of perplexed Americans. These scenes are predictably hilarious.
The problem is that Borat has a plot. This is admittedly an unusual complaint to level against a film. Let me explain. A plot requires that it be driven forward. Driving a plot requires character motivation and advancement. Character motivation and advancement do not naturally derive from scenes of unrehearsed crackpot reactions to Borat’s chauvinism and anti-Semitism. So by necessity there are lots of scenes that are, clearly and unashamedly, entirely scripted.
But, like watching a magician who is seen to use stooges and camera tricks on top of the expected sleight of hand and misdirection, these scripted scenes take away from the viewer’s certainty in the reality of the rest of the film. It goes from, "I can’t believe he reacted like that," to, "I don’t believe he reacted like that."
If you can drag yourself back to believing in the authenticity of the non-character developing scenes, the ones that you expect to be of real people, then plot strikes once more. The climax of a film can not get away with following unrelated tangents. So as the film gets closer to the end the ratio of scripted to unscripted material shifts hugely to the former, leaving the most important part of the film far shorter of laughs than the rest.
All of that having been said, I don’t think I went a single minute without laughing out loud. Borat is easily as funny as Sacha Baron-Cohen’s other movie of this year, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (of which I owe you a review). I expect it to feature in the top five of 2006.
One final hilarity that I noticed while refusing to leave before the lights came up: there was a credit for "Mr Baron-Cohen’s faeces provided by". Now there’s a tantalising teaser for you for when the film is released fully in November.