Even before it had been released, the Borat sequel—full title Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan—had set off a national scandal. But how did the rest of the movie play outside of the Rudy moment? Below, The Ringer staff discusses what’s changed since the original came out in 2006, the best pranks, and the movie’s unexpected breakout star.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm?
Miles Surrey: More of a riotous election special than a straight-up sequel, but rest assured, the film is still a great success!
Sean Yoo: A sequel 14 years in the making that is somehow able to modernize the source material and, more importantly, the pranks, for this chaotic year. While it might not have the same impact and shock value as the first film, this is a worthy sequel that’s even more delightful.
Alison Herman: I was not expecting so much … plot!
Alyssa Bereznak: Borat’s potty humor hits different now that I’m older. So does pranking conspiracy theorists, given all we know about the nuances of our political climate and the power brokers responsible for it. But, it was all worth it to see Rudy Giuliani caught on tape with his hand down his pants.
Katie Baker: Good viral marketing campaign for the 2007 film Teeth.
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
Herman: As a masterpiece of physical comedy and gross-out humor alike, the debutante ball fertility dance is the rightful heir to the original’s naked wrestling scene (in that I only watched about half of both because I was cringe-cry-laughing so hard throughout).
Baker: It was a small one, but: “Hello? Ghost with blue shirt, answer me” drew an actual hearty laugh. Same goes for the first time I heard the words “Sandra Jessica Parker.” In conclusion, no one wants to say it, but Tom Hanks looked hot.
Yoo: I could talk at length about all of the great solo scenes involving Tutar—she clearly stole the show. But there was a small moment when Borat needed some extra cash and decided to cut a man’s hair. Major shout-out to Alan “Randy” Knight, who was somehow able to stay calm during a nightmarish haircut where Borat brought out a machete and hedge trimmers. Randy approving each snip of hair had me in stitches.
Bereznak: I appreciated the limitless patience and goodwill of Tutar’s babysitter, who very gently stopped a young girl from getting an unwanted boob job, and convinced her father to consider his daughter as a real human being.
Siegel: My 16-year-old self would’ve said Tutar and Borat’s dance at the debutante ball. My current self was most blown away by the sequences at the home of QAnon believers Jerry Holleman and Jim Russell. The movie manages to both humanize the conspiracy theorists and illustrate just how terrifyingly destructive their warped worldview is. (Also: Only Sacha Baron Cohen could make something as stupid as “McDonald Trump” funny.)
Surrey: Sacha Baron Cohen living for several days with Trump QAnon-ers in character as Borat was some surreal-as-hell commitment to the bit. Come for Borat exercising with a strap-on, stay for the two guys explaining what a conspiracy theory is while earnestly believing that the Clintons drink children’s blood.
3. What was your least favorite part of the film?
Bereznak: The “traditional fertility dance” will haunt me for a while.
Baker: It ultimately ended up fine, but those few seconds with the guy in the barber chair were so freaking harrowing—I just kept waiting for him to get Bic’d or something that I actually had to avert my eyes.
Herman: When Borat and Tutar are dunking on ghouls like the pro-lifer who’s totally chill with an incest pregnancy, it’s all in good fun. When they’re duping genuinely good people like the Holocaust survivor, the babysitter, or even the QAnon dudes who really did Borat a solid by taking him in during lockdown, it’s a little messier! I felt genuinely bad they put a woman through the emotional distress of thinking she was a witness to abuse, even as I was moved by her speech to Tutar in the car. I hope Cohen and his production team bought them all a nice dinner once the mask was off.
Siegel: It was tough watching Cohen take advantage of the humanity of babysitter Jeanise Jones and Holocaust survivor Judith Dim Evans. The only thing that Borat exposed about them was that they’re kind and generous people.
Yoo: Actually seeing a crowd enthusiastically sing along to “Wuhan Flu” was pretty uncomfortable to watch.
Surrey: RIP, Azamat.
4. Let’s, uh, talk about that Rudy Giuliani moment.
Siegel: Ugh, do we have to? I cannot imagine what it would’ve been like to watch that scene unfold without knowing that it was about to happen. Even though I knew what was coming, Rudy’s ghoulishness was off-the-charts horrifying.
Bereznak: A legendary moment in the history of shirt-tucking.
Herman: I hate to say it, but … he was definitely just removing his microphone. Still a creep who belongs in jail for other reasons, though!
Baker: I was a big fan of Peter and Elizabeth Jennings’s latest wigs!!! But don’t take it from me, take it from … Nick Francona, a former Marine and son of MLB’s Terry:
Undoubtedly. I don’t think a lot of people realize that this isn’t just a hypothetical. There are indeed foreign intelligence services that dedicate substantial resources to trying to accomplish exactly that.— Nick Francona (@NickFrancona) October 23, 2020
Surrey: Grabbing a drink, escorting a stranger to the bedroom of a hotel suite, and putting your whole hand down your pants is a totally normal way to tuck in a shirt. Find a new slant.
Yoo: I’d love to never watch or think about this ever again.
5. Grade the performance of Maria Bakalova, a.k.a. Borat’s daughter Tutar.
Baker: Get that lady in a Safdie movie, stat! I genuinely enjoyed the tender dynamic between her and Jeanise Jones; it was a salve when it wasn’t totally fucked up.
Surrey: A+. I’ve run out of superlatives for just how funny, weird, and bold Bakalova’s performance was. It was so good that I’m pretty sure Cohen broke character at the end of the film when he told her she was amazing.
Yoo: She was without question the MVP of the movie. Not only was she able to hold her own in public prank scenarios with Sacha Baron Cohen, but she was also, crucially, the emotional backbone of the movie. Without her, the sequel could have been a complete flop.
Siegel: A+. One of the best comedic performances of the century so far. Let me join the chorus: She deserves an Oscar nomination.
Bereznak: I don’t know how you audition for a role like this. I just assumed that people like Sacha Baron Cohen and Nathan Fielder had to grow up in highly specific conditions to have the ability to execute their deadpan antics, like how precious gemstones take years to form deep within the earth. It’s quite clear that Bakalova has the same twisted je ne sais quoi that they do.
Herman: [taps mic] [clears throat] VERY NICE!
Seriously, though: I cannot even imagine being tasked with basically playing a second Borat, let alone pulling it off. And not to get too Feminst 301 about it, but there’s a real subversion to having a woman inhabit the kind of crass, nasty persona that’s the Sagdiyev family legacy. It’s like the potty humor version of Vicky Krieps squaring off with Daniel Day-Lewis.
6. It’s been 14 years since the first Borat hit theaters. What did that movie expose about America, and what has the sequel exposed in 2020?
Yoo: Technology has gotten better while, unfortunately, we have not.
Baker: It’s telling that Pamela Anderson had more thoughtful personal protection in 2006 than alleged security mastermind Rudy Giuliani does in 2020.
Surrey: Reality has in many ways trumped satire, but Subsequent Moviefilm was way funnier in 90-odd minutes than anything in the last four years. If we can’t be totally shocked by anything that xenophobic Americans say these days, at least Borat still entertains. Plus, Tutar was the sequel’s ace in the hole, especially when it comes to exposing casual misogyny and leering men.
Siegel: The first Borat exposed Americans’ prejudices, simmering just below the surface. The sequel exposed the fact that our country is, and was, more fucked up than many people care to admit.
Herman: Sacha Baron Cohen is self-aware enough to know he’s not really exposing anything this time around. That’s why he makes up for the lack of original social commentary with such a fleshed-out story, even experimenting with earnestness (to mixed results). There are flashes of moralism and even the dreaded Resistance Humor in parts of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, but thankfully they’re balanced out by outrageous stunts at the expense of leery Southern gents, the crowd at CPAC, and America’s Mayor. Even when you can’t shame the shameless or uncover the out and proud, you can still make them look like the hideous people they are.
Bereznak: I watched the first Borat as a high school senior and, yes, I marveled at how terrible certain Americans could be. But mostly the movie just gave us a fresh set of catchphrases to repeat over and over again. (I have been saying “wawaweewa” to myself and laughing all weekend.) The sequel offered even less in the way of revelations because people have been saying the quiet parts out loud for a while now. We don’t need a fictional TV anchor to show us that—just turn on Fox News.
7. In the past month, Sacha Baron Cohen has starred in an Aaron Sorkin drama and revived one of his most famous characters. What should he do next?
Siegel: Play the lead role in a Phil Jackson biopic.
Surrey: Take a long vacation and hang out with Isla Fisher, who I wish was MAH WIFE.
Herman: Launch the liberal version of Project Veritas, though I suppose he already has.
Baker: I want him to buy the rights to my favorite piece of climate journalism and go from there.
Yoo: Drop the new Ali G movie. It’s been too damn long since we’ve heard a solid “Booyakasha.”
Bereznak: Whatever it is, I just ask that he never attempt a Massachusetts accent ever again.