Saturday, November 04, 2006


I guess you can say I'm two-and-a-half for three this year on movies that have gotten way beyond believable word-of-mouth before I ever get to see them.

First came "Snakes on a Plane," which fizzled at the box office but delivered for me just what I asked from it: A big ball of B-movie fun.

Then "Little Miss Sunshine," which was so hyped by fans before I saw it that I was sure I would have to be let down, but amazingly I wasn't. The ending of this one is just remarkable, and it's the second-best movie I've seen this year (after only "The Departed," so far.)

And now "Borat." Several critics have called it the funniest movie they've ever seen, and unfortunately I have to disagree. Don't get me wrong. It is extremely funny at many points, but uneven in others. I'd put it somewhere around 7 or 8 on my list of all-time funny flicks, which is obviously still high praise.

For anyone who hasn't seen this one yet, Borat is a creation of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen that has made appearances on his Ali G show. Though he claims to be a journalist from Kazakhstan, what he really is a mirror on America as he crosses the country, working his way into places he clearly doesn't belong.

What makes Baron Cohen's Borat work much better then Ashton Kutcher's "Punk'd" or even the old "Candid Camera" is that he brings something to the equation. Though much of the movie is about how people react to his very odd remarks, he himself would be very funny even without them.

To me, the comedian he reminds me of most is Andy Kaufman. Just as with Kaufman's best work, there's a big "wtf?" barrier to cross with Baron Cohen's work, but once you get past it you'll laugh as much as you squirm. And, for the most part, his targets show their biases with little prodding from Borat, so he doesn't have to often resort to outright cruelty.

The only time it was too much for me was when Borat and his producer (Ken Davitian) reach the breaking point and have an altercation I wouldn't describe to you even if I could bring myself to do it. Let's just say this: I had to turn away from the screen exactly two times this year, at the end of "United 93," knowing all too well how it would end, and during this very uncomfortable scene.

The bottom line: "Borat" is often laugh-out-loud funny, and he keeps his schtick fresh much longer than any of the "SNL"-character flicks ever managed to. If your sensibilities can take the shock, I recommend it most highly.


Linda said...

I saw Borat in a theater full of people who laughed for a solid 84 minutes!!! In discussion on the way home, we decided that the brilliance of this film is Cohen's well crafted style and the editing. This one will land in my Top 10 for the year, absolutely hilarious!

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm with you on that, Linda .. my only beef with Borat was with the hype, but even if it didn't quite meet that, it will definitely be in my top 10 also

Ramblings said...

I'm surprised you liked the Departed more than Borat. Don't get me wrong, I know they're two completely different movies and I loved both. But the Departed had faults, and other than the squirming issue with Borat, I couldn't find any.

Thanks for the comment, I'm gonna keep an eye on your blog for some movie ideas.

Anonymous said...

I'm really looking forward to this one but I'm managing to stay away until next week when things are a bit quieter!

Reel Fanatic said...

The Departed just kept me rapt from start to finish, Heddy, and while it made me laugh out loud many times, I just couldn't say the same about Borat

sanchapanzo said...

i think you generated major hype before watching the movie ;-) and going by experience 'hype generally kills the movie', since our expectations are so high that the movie will never ever match up to our expectations..

i saw one ali g movie sometime back, but i have to confess, it was just ordinary..

Reel Fanatic said...

You're right that I definitely bought into and maybe added to the hype about this one, Sanchapanzo, but to its credit, it very nearly lived up to my very high expectations

Mrs. Chili said...

This is a movie I just have no interest in seeing. I'll keep an open mind about it and keep reading reviews and listening to people talk about it and maybe I can be convinced, but I've seen nothing in the trailers that is even remotely appealing. I'm I just looking at it the wrong way?

Reel Fanatic said...

You're probably not looking at the wrong way at all, Mrs. Chili ... Baron Cohen's character is definitely not for everyone

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see this, but I don't doubt that there's going to be some unevenness in the flick. I love his show, I hear Cohen is going to be making a movie with his gay Austrian reporter character, but I find that character a lot less funny than his other two.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're right about his next flick, for which Universal has already shelled out more than $40 million, Sebastien .. it will star another Ali G regular, fashionista Bruno, who I don't find nearly as funny as Borat

Anonymous said...

I managed to avoid any hype before seeing Borat and I think I enjoyed it that much more as a result. Don't get me wrong, I really dug the film, but I probably would've nitpicked more if I had heard anything beforehand.

And the Fight? My brother described it as "life-changing" and I almost have to agree.

Reel Fanatic said...

Even though I was warned about it beforehand, Matt, I just thought it went completely over the top .. though it definitely didn't ruin the rest of the very funny movie for me

Anonymous said...

This string of comments is very interesting! I guess I just gotta go see this one.

The hype factor is way up there, but it's the observations that are making me really curious.


Reel Fanatic said...

All I can say for sure, Vermont Neighbor, is this is definitely you won't remain neutral on after seeing it!

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