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Larry Charles
Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian
Writing Credits:
Sacha Baron Cohen (and story), Anthony Hines (and story), Peter Baynham (and story), Dan Mazer (and story), Todd Phillips (story)

High Five!

Sacha Baron Cohen brings his Kazakh journalist character Borat Sagdiyev to the big screen for the first time. Leaving his native Kazakhstan, Borat travels to America to make a documentary. As he zigzags across the nation, Borat meets real people in real situations with hysterical consequences. His backwards behavior generates strong reactions around him exposing prejudices and hypocrisies in American culture.

Box Office:
$18 million.
Opening Weekend
$26.455 million on 837 screens.
Domestic Gross
$128.484 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Russian Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 3/6/2007

• “Censored Footages”
• “Propaganda”


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 15, 2007)

Although Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G character never really took off in America, his Borat personality gave the actor his breakthrough effort. 2002’s big screen adventure Ali G Indahouse didn’t even hit US theaters; it went straight to video here. However, 2006’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan became a major hit. It yanked in $128 million and turned into a real pop phenomenon.

Not burdened by much of a story, Borat takes us to a fictionalized version of Kazakhstan to meet Borat Sagdiyev (Cohen), a local TV reporter. Along with producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), he gets the assignment to go to the USA and get to know more about the country to help the struggling Kazakhs learn how to succeed.

As Borat proceeds, he discovers a vision that inspires him: Pamela Anderson on Baywatch. Pre-trip threats from his wife initially dissuade him from this quest, but when his spouse dies, he aspires to find and woo Pamela. In pursuit of this goal, Borat and Azamat drive from New York to California as they meet many Americans along the way.

Before I discuss my thoughts about Borat, I want to relate my initial expectations for the flick. I liked the bits of Cohen’s shtick I’d previously seen, and I thought the trailers for Borat looked very funny. Buoyed by the movie’s rave reviews, I thought the flick would be a real winner.

Why do I feel it necessary to mention these preconceived notions? Because I don’t want my dislike of Borat to be chalked up to a predisposition against it. I expected to enjoy the movie and wanted to dig it.

That didn’t happen, especially during my second viewing of it on DVD. Theatrically, I thought the flick was hit or miss. It presented a smattering of laugh out loud funny bits but also suffered from a surfeit of disgusting gags without much more to them than shock value. While not a total loss, the end result seemed considerably less amusing than anticipated.

Perhaps I went into Borat with excessively high expectations and I’d enjoy it more on DVD. Unfortunately, the opposite proved true. The gags worked even less well with repetition, and the movie’s flaws became more apparent.

What flaws do I mean? The often artificial nature of the project creates issues. Borat mixes staged sequences with those shot on the fly in various settings. While the flick would like us to believe everything occurs “for real”, that clearly isn’t the case. It’s obvious that many segments are faked for the movie, a fact that dilutes their impact.

And the impact of the rest of it as well. Because we question the veracity of so many segments, we remain constantly doubtful of what we see. I don’t mind that the movie creates wholly fictitious circumstances, but the intermingling of elements causes problems. It makes us hyperscrutinize what we see in that “Is it real or is it Memorex?” manner; we think much more about the veracity of what we watch than we should. The movie needs to go one way or the other, as the artificial nature blunts its impact.

Even if I forget that distraction, Borat loses points simply because of its emphasis on shock value. This is comedy mostly in the Tom Green/Jackass vein. It lacks much cleverness and usually just aims for the crude side of things.

At least Jackass doesn’t aspire to be more than basic idiocy. Borat, on the other hand, pretends it’s a look at the dark, bigoted underbelly of society. However, it’s really just an excuse for mean-spirited crudeness. It dresses up its grossness in the alleged pursuit of dark satire. Some seem to believe that Borat reveals hidden truths about Americans. Is anyone out there surprised to find out that rednecks hate gays and that frat boys are misogynists and racists? I sure wasn’t, and those “revelations” are about as revealing as the film ever gets.

In addition, Borat mistakes gross-out stunts and gags for actual humor. There’s real humor to be mined from the character, and when Borat spins conventions on their ear, the flick works. It’s when we’re stuck with simple crassness and nastiness that the movie falters, and that happens an awful lot of the time. The absolutely disgusting nude wrestling scene between Borat and Azamat isn’t funny at all; it simply attempts to produce uncomfortable laughs with the over the top unpleasantness of the visuals. And trust me: Ken Davitian naked is arguably the ugliest sight I’ve ever seen.

Borat also runs into problems due to its length. At 84 minutes, this is a short flick, but the gags work best in small doses. When taken in dribs and drabs, the premise works. Viewed as one long reel, however, the shtick wears thin.

In the end, Borat occasionally amuses but more often than not just seems forced and lame. The one-note character gets predictable quickly, and the flick doesn’t hold up well for second screening. Without basic surprise behind it, the film loses any humor value. Smug, self-satisfied and condescending, Borat pats itself on the back for its cleverness but ultimately fails.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Borat used a variety of camera formats to capture its material, so the quality could be up and down. Nonetheless, the flick usually looked pretty good.

For the most part, sharpness seemed positive. Wide shots could appear a bit soft and indistinct, but those examples never became overwhelming. The majority of the film presented good delineation. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and only a little edge enhancement occurred. Outside of some light video artifacting in darker shots, source flaws failed to appear.

Colors went with natural tones. These consistently came across with reasonable clarity and vivacity. The hues never excelled, but they were perfectly adequate. The same went for the blacks, which seemed acceptably dark, and shadows. A few low-light sequences were somewhat thick, but these usually seemed to be fairly clear. Overall, the production replicated the material well.

Note that some scenes featured lower quality cameras. These looked pretty muddy and ill-defined. Not too many segments used these, but they did occur. Most of the flick was solid, however.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Borat, it also proved satisfactory. Don’t expect a stellar soundfield. Music provided much of the audio, as very songs and score offered good stereo imaging. Otherwise general environmental information dominated. A few sequences became more active – like scary elements to accentuate Borat’s horror when he stays in the house of some Jews – but the track stayed pretty low-key most of the time.

No problems with quality emerged. Speech was natural and concise, even when recorded in potentially problematic situations. Music sounded lush and full, while effects appeared clear and accurate. As with the picture, the audio seemed fine for the source material.

Despite the film’s success, we don’t get a ton of extras on Borat. Under Censored Footages, we find eight deleted scenes. These run between one minute, 16 seconds and six minutes, four seconds for a total of 24 minutes of material. We find “Dogs Pound” (1:46), “Massagings” (2:36), “Supermarket” (4:06), “Doctor” (3:13), “Policings” (3:00), “Rodeo Reportings” (1:59), “More Footages” (6:04) and “Sexydrownwatch” (1:16).

Fans will definitely enjoy these segments. Indeed, I think they work better in capsules like this rather than as part of a long film. “Supermarket” fares the best, as Borat pesters an impossibly patient store manager; I think it’s funnier than anything in the released film. “More Footages” provides a lot of short bits that entertain. This is a good collection and often more amusing than anything in Borat itself.

The Propaganda area splits into three domains. Global Propaganda Tour presents a 16-minute and 39-second featurette. It follows promotional appearances made by Borat. We see him at various conventions, premieres and TV shows. These become pretty lame because everyone’s in on the joke; it only works with the uninitiated. Come on – when Martha Stewart plays along, that’s comedic death. It’s not amusing to see Borat appear before shrieking fans, so this program gets old quickly.

Musics Infomercial is a one-minute clip that advertises the soundtrack – in a quirky way. Finally, Coming Kazakhstan 2028 boasts some ads for other films. We find ads for Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, Super Troopers, and Grandma’s Boy. No trailer for Borat pops up on the DVD.

Borat became a comedy sensation due to its wild antics, but this isn’t a flick I can see enduring in the long run. It gets too much of its comedy from basic shock value and lacks much true wit and cleverness. The DVD presents acceptable picture and audio along with disappointingly sparse extras. I’m in the minority, as it seems that most adore Borat, but its forced attempts at crude comedy leave me cold.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.0606 Stars Number of Votes: 33
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