Michelle’s review published on Letterboxd:
The fact that a sequel to Borat (2006) still manages to be topical fourteen years later is, quite frankly, depressing. Luckily for us, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (I will not be typing out that egregiously long official title, deal with it) is also a hilarious and outrageous comedy that simultaneously skewers American politics but also manages to have a few poignant moments as well.
Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) is recruited by his government to go back to the United States as an ambassador of sorts and present a gift to Vice President Mike Pence in order to save the sullied reputation of Kazakstan, which was ruined by Borat's antics in the first film. When an unfortunate incident ruins the original present, Borat recruits his daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova) to help him formulate a new plan to impress Mike Pence.
The formula is similar to the first outing with Borat pranking unsuspecting people and introducing cringe-inducing situations to shock and surprise. Interestingly, even though it's been quite a while since the original movie, a lot of people on the street still recognize Borat so he has to rely on different disguises for much of the film. His shtick seems to work better in rural areas where pop culture infiltration isn't as pervasive, so there are some scenes where he can be in character as Borat undetected. The costumes add an interesting element to the comedy though it's still "Borat" playing these characters accent and all.
Borat as a character is misogynistic, antisemitic, and vulgar but this is the key to what makes him work as a critique of these bigoted ideologies. His affable nature and "otherness" makes people who share his views feel comfortable agreeing with him and showing their dark side that they hide from the public. The main target of this criticism is the right leaning side of US politics, and it's obvious that Baron Cohen in real life is the complete opposite of the characters he plays. Some people might find it hard to separate these two personas, especially because he doesn't do many interviews out of character, but as funny and occasionally endearing Borat can be, the audience isn't supposed to empathize with him or agree with his views--he is a mirror held up to terrible people to expose their biases.
This film was made partly during the COVID-19 pandemic and it creeps into the narrative though it doesn't overtake it completely. The fact of the matter is, that media made this year and very likely a few years after, will be influenced by this event as it changed society in so many ways. People complain that it "dates" works of art, but quite frankly, art isn't made in a vacuum and this might end up being a defining characteristic for this decade. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm handles the situation well, and it makes for some amusing sequences.
Maria Bakalova’s performance as Tutar is fantastic and she is a welcome addition to the vibe of the film and keeps the jokes fresh. She has excellent comedic timing and as the story progresses she gets a great character arc. Baron Cohen is as hysterical as ever and it's always impressive to see the sheer balls this man has to put himself into the situations he does.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is one of the rare after-the-fact sequels that works and manages to not tread the same ground as the original.