When it comes to classic comedies, I always like to think about what it must have been like to see them for the first time, to try and remember what that experience was like. You’ll never be able to see them again in that light and therefore, that movie will never hit quite the same way. The classics will always be funny, but they’ll never catch you by surprise like they did initially. It’s a bummer.
Fifteen years ago, one such movie was released and in addition to being my second favorite movie of the century, it tops my personal list of movies I’d love to go back and see again for the first time.
(For the record, other such movies are Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, Tropic Thunder, and Superbad. Will Ferrell’s movies don’t really count because studies have shown that his movies are weird the first time and tend to get better with age.)
In November of 2006, Sasha Baron Cohen brought one of his characters, Borat, to the big screen. Cohen’s Borat, a journalist from Kazakhstan, was part of the three-headed monster on display and featured on Cohen’s HBO show Da Ali G Show. Another character, Brüno, would get his own movie but it wouldn’t really come close to rivaling Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. In Borat, Cohen takes his curious and naive Borat on the road and deep into the heart of America to learn about everything from feminism to comedy, how to drive, and how to fall in love. At various times the movie is laugh out loud funny, belly-hurting funny, and cringe-inducing delightful. Sometimes the different degrees of funny combine forces, leaving you powerless to defend yourself. Very nice indeed.
With the movie set to celebrate its 15th anniversary, I wanted to look back at my five favorite moments from the film.
Welcome to Kazahkstan
Is Kazahkstan a real place? Yes, yes it is. I just Google’d. I didn’t have a chance to see how the real country compares to the one were get introduced to at the beginning of Borat but I’d have to imagine there are one or two things that might be different.
But even still, thanks to Borat’s tour we get introduced to everyone from the town rapist (“naughty, naughty”) to the town mechanic and abortionist. Plus we get a quick glimpse of the kindergarten, complete with automatic rifles, and are introduced to Borat’s charming wife and his humble abode, complete with a VCR.
My favorite is this dude:
That’s Borat’s asshole neighbor, the one with the audacity to want things like a window with a glass and a step. Very judgemental. Although it’s also relatable. We all have or have had that one neighbor who drives us crazy.
Borat vs. Hotels
I couldn’t pick just one hotel-related scene and as three piled up, I decided to lump them together as something of a package deal. Borat mistaking the elevator for his hotel room is genius and I especially like Borat quietly saying “this is a nice room” as he starts to unpack, a little nudge to the hotel employee for him to start paying attention to what’s happening. Borat’s low key indignant response when told that the elevator wasn’t his room, saying “I will not move to a smaller room” is the perfect capper to the scene.
And then, of course, there’s when Borat gets to his actual room.
I couldn’t even begin to think how many times I’ve referenced the “king of the castle” line.
Later on, Borat and his producer Azamat get lost, resulting in him needing to ask some locals for directions.
One of the best things about Cohen’s bits is that they essentially interpret and apply. It’s one thing to do a fish-out-water interview and alone, those are hilarious. But Cohen always then goes the extra mile to demonstrate what he just learned, which in this case, is how to talk and dress. The scene could have been contained and have just included his interaction with those dudes but by them continuing on to another hotel, where he’s basically doing exactly what they told him to do, both talking and dressing, it just keeps the fun going.
Cohen’s level of commitment to a bit is probably one of this greatest strengths. Courage being the main one. My dude is fearless.
Retired or Retarded?
Whenever Borat mixes it up with people, more often than not there comes a point where they drop the act. Usually, this is when Cohen is preying on the faux-sincerity of bougie ass clowns who have welcomed Borat in as a way to show how welcoming and nice they are, a move that more often than not proves the opposite.
While visiting some nice southern folk and getting invited to a very cordial dinner party, each member of the dinner party reaches the screw this point at different times. The landing times vary but rest assured, they all get there. Most of Borat’s victims usually do.
Driving And Casual Life Lessons Combined
Borat and Azamat intend on staying in New York City to conduct their research and interviews but after falling in love with Pamela Anderson, the duo decide to head west to California. Yet because they are reluctant to fly (something about not wanting the Jews to repeat 9/11,) Borat has to take driving lessons to help get them where they need to go. Along the way, he learns about women’s rights, how to properly hold a steering wheel, that it’s not okay to drink and drive and as Mike, the instructor very adamantly says, “you must not hit the children.”
Although based on how it says it, it kind of makes you think that perhaps Mike has hit children before.
According to Borat, in Kazakhstan, it’s “illegal for more than five women to be in same place, except for in brothel and in grave.” It was then inevitable that Borat would need to learn how other countries, mainly the U.S. view women.
Borat cracking a smile and laughing ever so slightly when Feminist No. 1 says that feminism is the theory that women should be equal to men, is amazing and without being loud or massively disruptive, Borat quickly puts himself in opposition to the women. Their politeness and professionalism keep them focused but I love how he’s able to twist screws subtly and in this particular situation, it propels the scene forward as opposed to grinding it to a hault.