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'Borat 2' review: Sequel is essential viewing

Sacha Baron Cohen in a scene from Amazon

Sacha Baron Cohen in a scene from Amazon Studios' "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (2020) Credit: Amazon Studios

MOVIE "Borat 2"

WHEN|WHERE Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Sacha Baron Cohen pulls off an improbable feat by returning to his most popular alter ego, the boorish but lovable Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev, in this sequel to the smash hit 2006 movie that followed a run on HBO's "Da Ali G Show."

Given that the whole conceit depends on Cohen interacting with regular people, unrecognized and in character, the question of how to revive Borat and make another movie surely proved vexing.

Fortunately for audiences that simply could never get enough of the man with the thick mustache, the gray suit and catchphrases like "very nice!," the star found his way back for another mockumentary.

In "Borat 2," the full title of which is (deep breath): "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," Cohen relies on a series of disguises in public and the presence of Borat's 15-year-old daughter Tutar Sagdiyeva (played by the astonishingly excellent Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova) to once again come out with a screamingly funny and impossibly damning portrait of ugly Americana.

The film, which was made in secret and first confirmed just in September, is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

The plot involves Borat returning to the United States at the orders of Kazah President Nursultan Nazarbayev (Dani Popescu) in order to present a gift to Vice President Mike Pence. Tutar hitches a ride, through methods that will not be revealed here.

MY SAY Borat functions to draw out some of the darker aspects of the American id, particularly the bigotry that has always occupied a significant corner of it.

Borat is a friendly man who arrives in the United States from a fictionalized Kazakhstan that depicts the former Soviet republic as a relentlessly backward, dictatorial state — and he exposes uncomfortable truths through the veneer of his cheerful, regressive conduct.

These days, the 24/7 news cycle can sometimes seem like one long Borat bit, and it is to Cohen's credit that he understands this to be another key reason that the character cannot operate with business as usual.

What we get instead of the familiar indictment of garden variety, casual racism is a blistering summation of what might be deemed the alternative facts era. The Rudy Giuliani scene has gotten a lot of press in recent days, but the fact is that it's far less wrenching than some of the intense conspiratorial paranoia that Borat encounters as the COVID-19 pandemic sets in.

This movie is less predicated on Borat learning about America than it is the extent to which the personal crisis the character experiences — struggling with how to be a dad while also preparing to deliver his daughter as a gift to a much older man on behalf of his country — seems to fit in right alongside the strangeness he encounters while, say, falling in with the QAnon crowd.

Cohen remains as fearless as ever in his willingness to push things as far as they can go, and he is perhaps outdone by Bakalova, who makes Tutar into a compelling and interesting character even as she's pretending to interview Giuliani in that hotel suite.

Even now, decades after first introducing us to Borat, Cohen's capacity to make jaws drop has not diminished.

BOTTOM LINE: Cohen has pulled off another miracle with "Borat 2" and it is essential viewing.

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