“You’re a stinking slut and you knew I wasn’t going to meet you, and you should have just been careful,” Sacha Baron Cohen railed at a closeted, liberal-wrestling fan as he demonstrated his skills at the ropes. “Because you would have been my teacher, and that means I would have been digging for sex with you.”
The scene from “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” aired last night on NBC, marking the return of Cohen as the pseudo-intellectual British interloper that charmed and enrageously alienated America with his first movie, 2000’s “Borat.” This new installment was a big step up: No longer was Borat a stuttering, socially awkward screen persona — he was now an “authentic” Kazakh radio reporter and a person you genuinely enjoyed watching, thanks to his, um, sex-addled dream man banter.
Whether the new Borat, Sali (Baron Cohen), is really meandering through an episode of ESPN or flatlining a blank corpse over more tragically banal activity was a moot point: Everyone was making fun of Borat this time, especially his Borat brothers, Karo (a henchman) and Ali (one of the movie’s biggest stars), who were never scarily diabolical. But the more serious issues that still hang over this culture war comedy — namely, how to balance the satiric commentary on America and our most embarrassing, nonjournalistic impulses — remained unaddressed.
And perhaps that’s because the real test of this film comes next week, when it is released in a cultural climate that has changed in good ways and bad since its early days, with comedian Sarah Silverman calling Cohen “the Mickey Mouse of culture” as well as the president of the United States deploying the president-elect’s racist dog whistles at a rally last night.