One of the funniest movies of 2006 and also one of the more controversial, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (or, as it'll be known for the rest of this review, just "Borat") stars Sasha Baron Cohen ("Madagascar") as Borat (a character from Cohen's "Da Ali G Show"), a simple journalist from Kazakhstan who decides to head to America with producer Azamat (Ken Davitian) in order to record his findings about American culture.
The film sets Borat out in the world, having him interact with real people, who don't exactly take well to Borat's rather affectionate greetings (a few New Yorkers either threaten him or run.) In his hotel room one night, Borat sees an old episode of "Baywatch" and falls for Pamela Anderson. Then and there, he decides to make it his mission to find Anderson and make her his wife.
So Borat hits the road in a giant ice cream truck, stopping at D.C. and then heading South, taking part in a hilarious interview on local news and acting as the "special guest" at a rodeo, where he launches into the fake Kazakhstan national anthem, which is right about when the audience turns on him. Borat also finds it necessary to get an animal for protection during his journey, so he stops off to buy a bear, which rides along in the back of the ice cream truck, startling many passing motorists (and some kids who think they can buy ice cream.) There's also a very troubling ride with some drunken fratboys (who later sued the filmmakers, although the case was recently decided in favor of "Borat" - as Borat himself might say, "Very nice!")
"Borat" is offensive to just about everyone, but Cohen's character is presented as so naive that it's an attempt to draw out people's real stereotypes and prejudices, and Borat is frequently successful in doing just that, as some of what Borat is told by the unsuspecting participants is horrific. Cohen's performance is nothing short of remarkable, as he manages to keep in character exceptionally well, and if one believes that most of this was improv, it's quite the impressive on-the-spot effort. "Borat" is often rather uncomfortable to watch, but it's still often downright hilarious. Hopefully Borat will be back for a sequel, but given how successful this film was, it might be a little difficult for "Borat" to not get recognized the second time around.
VIDEO: "Borat" is presented by Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Meant to resemble a low-budget documentary feature, "Borat" doesn't look sleek on-purpose. Still, the film looks about as good as it's going to look here, appearing crisp and detailed in all but a few darker scenes. Some slight edge enhancement and artifacting was spotted in a few scenes, but was hardly noticable. Colors remained natural, with fine saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "Borat" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film is almost entirely dialogue-driven, and dialogue remained crisp and distortion-free throughout.
EXTRAS: Special mention must be made of the very funny packaging, which is meant to look like a bootleg (the title appears to be written on the DVD with marker and printed on a "Demorez" ("Is life? No. Is Demorez.")-brand DVD.
Extras include 8 very funny deleted scenes, a music promo, a 16-minute look at Borat's promotional tour and promos for other titles from the studio ("Van Wilder II", "Super Troopers", "Grandma's Boy".)
Final Thoughts: "Borat" is often rather uncomfortable to watch, but it's still often downright hilarious. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a few minor extras. Highly recommended.
The Film B+