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Borat Reviews

Is Sacha Baron Cohen's prank, featuring the bull-in-china-shop antics of Borat Sagdiyev, a scathing satire or a JACKASS for people who think they're clever — or a bit of both? The crude, sexist, vulgar, anti-Semitic TV reporter from Kazakhstan (Cohen) goes on a tour of the United States, where he and his producer, Azamat (Ken Davitian), are to produce a Charles Kuralt-style documentary. And so, in this feature-length variation on Punk'd, Cohen-as-Borat interviews feminists; sings the Kazakh national anthem at a rodeo; takes driving lessons; buys a bear; consults with an etiquette instructor before committing a cavalcade of offenses against common decency at a formal dinner party, including inviting a prostitute to stop by; speaks with a comedy instructor, who's stunned to near-speechlessness by a "funny" tale about Borat's prostitute sister sexually taunting their mentally retarded brother; flees a bed-and-breakfast when he realizes the charming elderly couple who run the place are Jews; interviews African-American politician Alan Keyes in Washington, assuring his viewers that the man is a "genuine chocolate face — no make up!" and attends a Pentecostal mass. And there's much, much more, including a lengthy nude-wrestling sequence involving Borat and Azamat, who's so grotesquely fat he doesn't need a computer-generated black bar to obscure his privates, and Borat's attempt to abduct Pamela Anderson from a book-signing appearance by stuffing her into a traditional Kazakh "wedding sack." It's hard to say exactly how much each target of Cohen's victims knows or suspects; it's extremely difficult, for example, to believe Anderson and her handlers don't suspect something.... Or maybe it isn't. Is a prank of this magnitude more likely than the idea that some obsessed nutjob might infiltrate a public appearance and behave inappropriately to a professional sex bomb? What's certain is that Cohen plays the game to the bitter end, never breaking character while explaining that the (skeleton) crew is there for a Kazakh TV tribute to the great US and A. It's a fearless performance and yields some squirm-inducingly funny moments, the most uncomfortably biting of which may be his encounter with the Pentecostals, whose real-life ignorance, unexamined bigotry and bizarre behavior are every bit the equal of the fictional Borat's.