Borat: Let’s get it over with
Look, Sacha Baron Cohen, one of the most subversive comic minds since Andy Kaufman, has talent to burn, and based on advanced reviews alone, Borat is sure to be a smash hit. But this ambush style of comedy, utilizing the bait and switch interview, faux-fish out of water routine, is two evolutionary steps removed from middle-school crank calling, and one step from Punk’d (all apologies to Candid Camera’s Alan Funt). Sacha’s alter-egos – Ali G, Bruno, and now Borat, (previously relegated to imported DVDs or HBO specials, now ready for wide-scale box office) all have had their moments of brilliance. And yes, in the past I’ve giggled appreciatively as some of the worst living examples of American ignorance, bias, and celebrity have received their comeuppance (however obliviously to them in the moment) at Sacha’s very hands. For myself, the effect wears down in repeated viewings. The social commentary is well understood, but as a stealth operation, the laughs come off as cheaply gained.
Now, considering Borat’s big-screen debut, it’s not so much the finished product that I find myself loathing (because in fairness, I haven’t viewed the movie in full, though at some point, I’ll be dragged to the theater by a friend, or will pop the DVD in, when no one is looking), it’s the promotional means to that end.
You Sacha, with the limitless improvisational genius at your command – you’re better than this – the weeks upon weeks of scripted “in character” press conferences, the international “incidents“, the shameless stunts and hucksterism. The over-hype, now reaching dreaded Snakes proportions, can’t be solely laid at your feet, I know. No hard feelings – I eagerly await your next project, as long as it excludes this overwrought formula.
But to whom it may concern: be it 20th Century Fox, or otherwise – I’d rather sit this one out, fast forward past the Borat premiere on November 3rd, and the following weeks as middle America joins in on the joke (due to “lack of awareness” in non-coastal regions, Fox has opted for a smaller, initial release of 800 screens, then looking to build on that number as word of mouth spreads), and this whole gravy train ignites the inspiration for countless silkscreen press entrepreneurs to toss their “Vote for Pedro” shirt designs in favor of slogans boasting a new and improved Kazakhstani flavor, primed for the local mall kiosk or souvenir stand. Besides, there’s another Borat themed (now confirmed as Bruno) creation just around the corner. So book it – we can do this all over again, in a year or so. As we should know by now, there’s no shortage of village idiots to skewer.