Smart satire and broad comedy are both very popular forms of humor, but they very rarely overlap. A great example is seen when we look at the smart, neurotic humor of Woody Allen, and the more lowbrow, but equally excellent, work of Mel Brooks. Both were excellent filmmakers that carved out their niches in Hollywood. They have birth to decades of inspired writers and directors, who diverged and created their own comedies, many of them either going for intelligent comedy, or lowbrow, toilet-humor comedy. One film that features the best qualities of both is the excellent Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
When it comes to dedication to a character, no one works harder than Sacha Baron Cohen. He has absolutely no limit on what he will say or do, and he will even go as far as to risk being arrested for the sake of a joke. In his opus, he gives a character from his Ali G television show an entire film. Borat Sagdiyev is a clueless, vulgar reporter from Kazakhstan sent to America to try and bring some Western logic to his archaic village. Of course, one of the hallmarks of comedy is the lost in translation/foreigner in the USA causing adorable trouble with his inappropriate grasp of proper Western conventions. From defecating in front of the Trump Tower, to asking if a tortoise was “a cat in a hat” to hiring a call-girl to a sophisticated dinner party, Cohen tears apart the very fabric of American culture.
What makes it even more deliciously evil is how everyone else in the film are regular people who have no idea what is going on – they genuinely believe they are interacting with this confused and strange foreign goofball. Their reactions are genuine, and it just makes it that more charming to see Cohen say the most inappropriate things to innocent people, and seeing their unscripted, honest reactions (usually of hilarious horror).
Cohen has tried to replicate the success of Borat with Bruno and The Dictator. However, he didn’t even reach the heights he did with Borat. Offensive, vulgar but always unbelievable hilarious, it shows Sacha Baron Cohen at his comedic best, becoming so immersed in the role of Borat. It feels like we are watching a real man navigating through the intimidating world of the USA, and that just goes to show how brilliant Cohen is as a writer and performer.
To describe this film, I really need to borrow a line from Borat:
“Is nice”. Very, very nice. Damn hilarious and wonderfully satirical as well.