Situational comedy with meaning is a rare thing these days. In 2006, Sacha Cohen decided to delve back into what it means to be comical and released (take a deep breath) "Borat — Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." Now the film, with a handful of extras, is out on DVD.
To explain what most everyone already knows, "Borat" is the story of a Kazakh reporter, Borat, who travels to America in order to make a documentary film. While in the states, Borat and his producer, Azamat, visit a southern rodeo where they meet a homophobic redneck, learn how to wine and dine with high society, have a chat with feminazis, gets drunk with racist frat boys and attempts to meet Pamela Anderson. All of that, and more, in a nearly 90-minute span.
With the movie, Cohen pokes fun at the various facets of American culture. How he does it, however, is the comical genius — he acts like an outsider attempting to look in, and with that comes a hilarity rarely seen in modern films. While paying homage to comedic paragons, Cohen paints an alluring picture of our multicultural society, which forces us to think, "Do we really act that way?"
Does the DVD offer anything truly significant to the "Borat" experience? Not really, and that's where the disappointment sets in.
First, the good things about the DVD. Starting with the basics, the picture and sound quality are pretty vivid. Borat looks extra flamboyant in his trademark green thonged wetsuit, and the grunts, growls and cursing during Borat's totally-nude struggle with Azamat sound livelier than ever.
The extras themselves, albeit a handful, are funny. There's a newscast of the rodeo coverage, a Kazakhstan "Bay Watch" spoof, a movie promotion featurette and some deleted scenes.
The "Bay Watch" parody is the funniest thing the extras have to offer. Imagine Borat wearing a one piece while running on a beach. Now picture a hairy, 300-pound Azamat doing the same while wearing the same. Throw in some classic "Bay Watch" references and more characters from the movie and you'll find yourself rolling with laughter.
The movie promotion featurette is just a compilation of all the promotional stops Cohen made to promote his movie. He stops at the Cannes Film Festival, a comic book convention (where he makes women laugh by making fun of them) and a couple late night talk shows, one of which Borat thanks Jay Leno for allowing him to bed Martha Stewart on his show.
No doubt funny, but the meat on the DVD's bones was kind of dry when it came to the deleted scenes. Watching them, it's easy to see why they weren't left in the film — they simply don't add to the strong social commentary Cohen fashioned. In a sense, they were pointless, but still fun to watch (kind of like some Eddie Murphy movies).
What I was hoping for I didn't get — funny audio commentary from Borat and Azamat, some making-of featurettes and the like. Nearly every DVD produced since the birth of the DVD has had audio commentary, and most of it is painfully boring. Some Borat commentary would have been appreciated, as it would have added some spice to the traditional recipe.
Alas, you get what you pay for: a funny movie with a modest side dish of extras. Is "Borat" worth the $20 price tag? Sure thing, but keep both eyes open for a (hopefully with more features) special edition in the future.Rating: