The funniest movie I’ve seen all year is “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” If something funnier happens between now and Dec. 31, I will be greatly surprised. It’s the sort of film for which the word “riotous” was invented. It’s crazy, anarchic, clever, brilliantly composed satire/sketch/scatalogical humor. It has at least one scene that people will be talking about for years, the way they talk about “the hair gel scene” in “There’s Something About Mary” or “the campfire farting scene” in “Blazing Saddles.” For “Borat,” they’ll be talking about “the naked hotel room fight scene.”
Borat is a character created by Sacha Baron Cohen, a British comic whose “Da Ali G Show” has aired on HBO and who was recently seen as Will Ferrell’s French opponent in “Talladega Nights.” I’ve always thought his Ali G persona gets old fast, while Borat is the standout character, so I was delighted to learn Baron Cohen had made a film based on him. (There was an Ali G film a few years ago, but it was never released stateside.)
The deal with Borat is he’s a Kazakhstan TV news reporter who visits America to learn about our culture. His English is hilariously fractured, and he’s portrayed as a misogynistic, racist, anti-Semitic homophobe, the joke being that that’s just how people ARE in Kazakhstan. (Oh, they hate/fear Gypsies and Uzbekistanis, too.) Borat speaks of his native country in terms that paint it as a hopelessly backward, cruel, poverty-stricken wasteland. Among Kazakhstan’s favorite hobbies: “disco dancing, archery, rape, and table tennis.”
And yet Borat himself is endearing. He’s an enthusiastic, friendly guy. He comes by his prejudices innocently, with no hate or ill will behind them.
I saw the Borat film a couple weeks ago at a MySpace screening. They had them in 20 cities around the country on the same night, with invitations issued only through MySpace. You had to make the Borat movie page one of your “friends,” and then you were given instructions on how to attend. That’s why I felt comfortable posting the review so long before the film actually opens, which is usually a no-no: I found out about the screening, and got into the screening, not as a member of the press but as a MySpace user.
Being a MySpace-only event, everyone in the crowd was between the ages of 17 and about 30. At 32, I was literally one of the oldest people there. I’m certain there was no one over 40. The few people of that age group who do use MySpace probably were not interested in this film, I’m guessing. That, or they didn’t want to “out” themselves as creepy over-40 MySpace users. (You have my word that I will delete my account the day I turn 35.)
Subsequently, I got an invitation to the official press screening of the movie, and it was amusing, so I want to share it with you. Invitations to press screenings usually come by way of a letter that reads like this:
Monkeyshines Pictures cordially invites you to a screening of its forthcoming release:
“NINETY MINUTES OF COMPLETE CRAP”
(paragraph describing the film)
You must arrive at the theater at least 35 minutes prior to showtime to ensure seating. Note: This letter is non-transferrable.
There is very little variation in this format. However, the announcement I got for “Borat” was different. It’s made to look like it was printed with an ancient dot-matrix printer, and it reads as follows:
Kazakhstan Ministry of Information
Present You and Guest Invite to special screening of:
Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Please you will come to this.
Thursday, 5 October
You must arrive at movie place thirty-five minutes early for seat. Invite present to you — no trade to others.
This is an example of how you can take something mundane and ordinary and do something fun with it every now and then. All the pertinent information is still conveyed. Plus, it’s actually FUNNY, and not just some corporate desk jockey’s idea of “funny.” We all have a chuckle, and no one gets hurt. Well, except the nation of Kazakhstan, whose leaders are apparently upset with Borat’s portrayal of their country. But whatever.