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Painful watching
I watched Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan yesterday and it has taken me a while to digest this cinematic experience and put into words exactly what it so bad about this movie.

While almost all the reviews are lauding the way in which Sacha Baron Cohen exposes the bigoted way people think there's something not quite right with that in my opinion. Most of the time while I was watching this movie I was struck at how contrived, unfunny and even painful it was. Borat sets people up so they appear ignorant, he goes beyond satire to prove that people are less tolerant than they think. He actually goes out of the way to humiliate people.

In one scene he has dinner in the American midwest with some cultured people to ostensibly learn about manners and American dining culture. He starts off innocently enough with a supposed misunderstanding about a guests' mental capacity (retarded versus retired) and goes on to appearing at the dining table with a plastic bag containing his stool because he apparently doesn't know how toilets work. Tiresome enough, but he finishes off by having a prostitute appear mid-dinner as his guest, leaving the assembled guests scrambling to excuse themselves and leave, because "oh look at the time".
This has to be one of the most painful things I have ever seen in a movie. It's immeasurably worse than watching Jörg Buttgereits' Schramm in which the main character nails his penis to a table with a 12 inch nail. That merely made me turn away from the screen, this actually made me hit the skip button to go to the next chapter.

This then is the problem for me, Cohen doesn't respect the people he portrays, he doesn't even give them a chance, he goes in with his own prejudices and slaughters them. No reason given other than that it's comedy. I'm sorry but this isn't good enough for me. I liked his trips to the USA as Ali G. in which he interviews people and over the course of a longer interview the people appear to be bigoted, racists or just plain crazy. Here he doesn't expose this, he just takes advantage of them.
And that makes for some uncomfortable watching.

I was tempted to write a review saying this is just a cultural gap I cannot cross, saying I must be too old for this kind of stuff but I think that that would be untrue. I like my piss and shit jokes as much as the rest of you. One of my favorite comedy series is Bottom, where Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmundson can't seem to go for 5 minutes without beating each other to a pulp with refrigerators, fire extinguishers and vomiting all over each other, all the while making fun of the other's lack of sexual prowess.

Borat isn't very funny in this movie, there are no double-entendres here. There is no refinement. He slaughters people by careful setup and similar editing. There is no context, no reason for me to dislike the people he publicly humiliates. Everyone knows drunk fratboys are dumb, do we need to see this exposed? Everyone can guess that the majority of people at a rodeo are rednecks. Do we need to laugh at them when he sings his made-up national anthem of Kazakhstan to the tune of the star spangled banner? I think not.


3 out of 10, mostly because of Borat's obsession with Baywatch's Pamela Anderson which saves this from the 2 it otherwise would have gotten.

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