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The Spin Sheet

DVD reviews by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits


Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
2006 (2006) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: A+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/C+


Begin Reviewings of Prerecord Moviedisc for Purpose of Enjoy Domestic Viewing of Moviefilm!

I'm just going to say this right up front: Borat may very well be the funniest film I've ever seen. I honestly can't remember ever having laughed this hard in a movie before in my entire film-going life. Borat is the brainchild of British "Jew" comic Sacha Baron Cohen, first seen by TV audiences in the U.K. and later in the U.S. on HBO's Da Ali G Show. Cohen plays Borat Sagdiyev, a naive television journalist from Kazakhstan, who is sent on a mission by his government to learn more about the U.S. "for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan." So Borat and his corpulent producer, Azamat Bagatov, travel to and across America and quickly find themselves in one absurd situation after another as they interact with all kinds of rank and file Americans.

What makes the film so funny, aside from Cohen's extraordinary portrayal of Borat (he reportedly never once broke character during filming or when later promoting the film), is that most of the Americans they meet seem to have no idea that Borat and Azamat are frauds, despite their often outrageous statements and behavior, nor do they quite ever know how to react to their antics. Cohen plays on the ignorance of many Americans about the rest of the world, and thereby gets his unsuspecting participants to reveal themselves in all sorts of embarrassing ways. This is the kind of raw social commentary you'll find in South Park, matched with the balls-out attitude of Jackass, performed live in the mold of Andy Kauffman or Peter Sellers. It's pure comic genius.

Fox's single-disc DVD release offers anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Surround audio. The quality is very good, given the source material. This isn't home theater demo worthy, but the A/V experience is exactly as it should be and any imperfections are deliberate and intended. The package is nicely coordinated, by which I mean that when you pull the disc out of its cardboard sleeve (which lists all the extras on the back in English), you'll find the cover art listing everything in Cyrillic (Russian) text. When you open the case, the disc has been made to look like a bootleg burned disc with the title written on it in marker. The animated menus are also appropriately low tech looking. "Surplus Material" on the disc begins with a 16-minute video of highlights from Borat's world "propaganda" tour for the film. This includes footage from Comic-Con in San Diego, Borat on Late Night with Conan O'Brian, appearances at the Toronto Film Festival, the film's L.A. and London premieres and screenings around the world, Borat's appearance on Saturday Night Live, his makeshift press conference in front of the Kazakh embassy in Washington D.C., and his "sexy time" with Martha Stewart on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It's all very funny stuff. Next up is a Kuzcek Records soundtrack commercial ("now on the new format of compact cassettes!") and a gallery of trailers for other Fox films (that won't be released in Kazakhstan until 2028). But the best of the extras are a series of 8 deleted scenes (some 30 minutes worth of bonus footage in all) in anamorphic widescreen. This "censored footage" includes Borat's visits to the dog pound, the supermarket and a doctor, Borat getting a massage in his hotel room, Borat and his crew getting pulled over by the Secret Service in Washington D.C. ("Oh, like-a KGB!") and by the police in Dallas, and unbelievable but true local TV news coverage of the rodeo incident. There's also an edited sampling of other deleted footage and Borat's Kazakh version of Baywatch (Sexydrownwatch!). Again, it's very funny stuff.

The only problem I have with the DVD is that there's clearly a LOT more deleted material that hasn't been included. There's also no audio commentary with either Cohen or Borat, there's no interviews with the film's real producers, etc. There's so much more that could have been included here... and you just know that it will be included eventually on some future 2-disc special edition. This DVD isn't bad by any means, but it does leaves you wanting. Ten years into this format, I'm not real big on waiting for the double-dip anymore.

This one complaint about the DVD not withstanding, Borat is one of the funniest things you'll ever see on film, and it's one of the sharpest satires in recent memory. Is it going to offend lots of people? You bet. But if you're looking for some great laughs - and I mean GREAT laughs - here they are. And believe it or not, the best parts haven't even been given away in the trailers. Sacha Baron Cohen has balls. BALLS, I tell you! If you can find it for a nice cheap "make benefit wallet" sale price befitting its minimal extras, then I'd say that this DVD is absolutely not to be missed under any circumstances. Yagshemash!

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com
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