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Sacha Baron Cohen's 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm' Reviewed

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The latest provocation from comedian Sacha Baron Cohen begins streaming tomorrow on Amazon Prime Video. "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" is a sequel where he again plays a fake journalist from Kazakhstan interacting with real people who have no idea what's going on. The moviefilm (ph) is in the news because one of those onlookers was presidential adviser Rudy Giuliani. Critic Bob Mondello has a review.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Borat first burst upon the public at what now seems an innocent time. George W. Bush was president, and Borat's made-up Russian accent was just a goof, not a reference to possible election interference.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM")

SACHA BARON COHEN: (As Borat) Fourteen year ago, I release moviefilm which brought great shame to Kazakhstan.

MONDELLO: Remember when people worried about shame? This time he's on a secret mission to ingratiate Kazakhstan's dictator with what he calls a dictator-friendly U.S. president.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM")

COHEN: (As Borat) I go to America.

MONDELLO: There's one problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Borat.

COHEN: (As Borat) No. It's not me.

MONDELLO: He's no longer anonymous...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM")

COHEN: (As Borat) People make recognize my face. I would need disguises.

MONDELLO: ...A drawback for a comedian whose shtick is pranking innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders. So the movie gives Borat an accomplice to help with the pranking, an almost feral daughter played by Bulgarian actor Maria Bakalova. So that she can emulate her Slovenian heroine, Melania, Borat enlists assistance in transforming her.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM")

COHEN: (As Borat) I want you to make hotsy (ph) out of this not-sy (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: We can do it.

MONDELLO: This involves a trip to an agricultural supply shop to buy her a cage.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM")

COHEN: (As Borat) How many girls you normally put in a cage this size?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: One.

COHEN: (As Borat) But I hear Donald Trump, he cage Mexican children.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Well...

COHEN: (As Borat) Yes. High-five (laughter).

MONDELLO: They then head to a beauty shop to fix her complexion...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: How dark is she wanting to go?

COHEN: (As Borat) What color is best for racist family?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: I wouldn't go any darker than a six or a seven.

MONDELLO: ...Then a dress shop.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM")

COHEN: (As Borat) I need dress with real sexy peels (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: OK.

COHEN: (As Borat) Where is the no means yes section?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Laughter).

MONDELLO: And you get the idea. Borat's an equal opportunity provocateur. And if an excess of COVID-era plot slows him down, he still manages to wreak havoc at a debutante ball, a right-wing rally and an early-in-the-pandemic speech by Vice President Pence...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM")

MIKE PENCE: And while the risk of coronavirus remains low, as the president said yesterday, we're ready for anything.

COHEN: (As Borat) Michael Pennis (ph), I brought a girl for you.

MONDELLO: ...All to set up the gotcha that's captured the current news cycle in which Borat's daughter, impersonating a television reporter, interviews Rudy Giuliani in her hotel suite. She is flirtatious and tells him she's nervous to meet one of her greatest heroes. He suggests she relax and then says, I'll relax you. Want me to ask you questions? They both laugh, and the interview proceeds. At one point, the actress suggests they continue the conversation in the suite's bedroom, and Giuliani agrees. He is then seen sitting on the bed as she helps him remove his microphone. And I'll just stop there. But suffice it to say that while there are innocent explanations for what the hidden cameras capture before Borat bursts in to interrupt them, there is no way to describe it without making it sound salacious, which is clearly the point.

"Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," even with the Giuliani gotcha, is less shocking and, more to the point, less laugh-packed than the first one, at least when viewed at home rather than in a crowded theater. But then, American society these days is less innocent, and an era gets the "Borat" it deserves. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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