Larry Charles, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer, and Todd Phillips, 2006

A reporter from Kazakhstan travels across the US.

Evaluation and commentary
I first heard of Sacha Baron Cohen a couple of years ago, when a news story about his character "Ali G" getting Pat Buchanan to refer to weapons of mass destruction as "BLTs" made the rounds. Then this year Baron Cohen's movie Borat briefly became a pop culture phenomenon. It got astoundingly good reviews. I heard some people call it the funniest movie ever made.

I finally got around to watching it. I didn't laugh once.

Sacha Baron Cohen has built a career out of putting on fake personae who say stupid, outrageous things, hoping to get people riled up. For instance, he attempts to kiss a random passerby on a New York City street, and the guy says, "What the fuck! Get away from me!" and tries to fend him off. Ha ha, I made that guy lose his cool. Sucker. Or alternatively, when he tries the same stunt with a driving instructor, who deals with it as gracefully as he can: Ha ha, look at the shit I'm making this guy put up with. Sucker.

There is a name for this kind of behavior. That name is "trolling." Sacha Baron Cohen is a troll. He is Michael Lonc, only he makes money at it. I almost wrote, "He is Jacek Pudlo, only he makes money at it," except that Jacek is merely one of Lonc's characters, just as Borat is one of Baron Cohen's. And just as offending people "as Jacek" doesn't make Lonc any less of a sadistic asshole, offending people "as Borat" doesn't make Baron Cohen any less of a sadistic asshole. Yes, Baron Cohen sometimes makes "Borat" the butt of the joke, just as Lonc sometimes makes "Jacek" the butt of the joke. That doesn't make it okay.

I have to wonder, what are people laughing at? Are we such an Abu Ghraib nation that 90 minutes of humiliation is considered the height of hilarity? Okay, yes, sometimes by playing the naïf Baron Cohen manages to goad racists into saying impolitic things on camera, but is that really comedy as such? It doesn't happen very often in this movie, anyway. Most of the film is merely gross-out humor: naked fat men, bags of shit. Great. I guess the people who love this are the same people who think that the joke in The Aristocrats is funny. As I recall, I gave that one a one. Borat gets a zero.

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