Arriving amidst a tidal wave of media hype, Sacha Baron Cohen brings his Kazakhstani alter-ego Borat Sagdiyev to the big screen in "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." This rude, crude and riotous mockumentary seems positioned to transform Baron Cohen from cult star to mainstream sensation. Fortunately, "Borat" is worth the fuss.
There's not much of a story here: Borat, a Kazakhstani television host, travels to America to make a documentary that will educate his fellow citizens. He stumbles across a "Baywatch" rerun in his New York hotel and becomes obsessed with meeting Pamela Anderson for some "sexy time." The quest takes him cross country and along the way he documents his encounters with rodeo fans, frat boys, high society socialites and Pentecostal parishioners, among others.
Many of the antics will be familiar to fans of Baron Cohen's brilliant HBO series "Da Ali G Show," where Borat was one of three recurring characters. Borat's segments on the show featuring everyday Americans pulled no punches in their ruthless satire, exposing hypocrisy and casual racism with frightening ease. Nothing in the film approaches the subversive genius of Borat leading patrons of a country-and-western bar in a round of "Throw the Jew Down the Well" (a "traditional Kazakhstani song") -- but there's still plenty of sharp-edged politically incorrect humor.
There's also a substantial amount of lowbrow physical comedy. So much so that "Borat" invites comparisons to "Jackass," especially in an unforgettable nude wrestling sequence featuring Borat and his obese producer Azamat (Ken Davitian, delivering one of cinema's all-time most fearless performances). And Borat's climactic encounter with Anderson is like the best episode of "Punk'd" never filmed.
All audiences are welcome into Baron Cohen's warped world, but it's the ones who laugh at, rather than cheer for, Borat's support for the U.S. "war of terror" that are really in on the joke.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times