The funniest thing about Borat may be its full title: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. But the movie itself is often hilarious, though it's so relentlessly over the top that it wears itself out.
Borat creator/alter ego Sacha Baron Cohen takes his character, a cluelessly racist and sexist reporter from Kazakhstan, out from the brief sketches on Da Ali G Show and into his own movie, a mockumentary about Borat's quest for the "virginal" Pamela Anderson, who Borat spots in a Baywatch rerun and falls hopelessly in love with. The meat of the movie, however, lies in its star's unrehearsed interactions with the witless Americans he dupes along his cross-country journey.
Choosing to skewer Southern conservatives in particular, Baron Cohen's targets are pretty obvious. But he's a gifted and daring improvisational actor, and there were several moments in Borat where I found myself in stitches. (My personal favorite is where Borat comes across a woman holding a garage sale and accuses her of being a gypsy.) At best, Baron Cohen can be called a "provocateur"; at worst, an obnoxious comic who just likes to annoy people. In the end, I would describe him as simply a clown: he puts on funny clothes and facial hair, adopts a silly voice, and acts like an idiot. The only difference is that a circus clown might employ a bottle of seltzer water, whereas Baron Cohen uses a plastic bag full of human excrement, or – in a sequence that will easily blot out any memories of "social commentary" – his own naked body.
It is for this nude wrestling scene (in which Baron Cohen grapples with his obese and phenomenally hairy sidekick Ken Davitian) that, I think, Borat will be remembered. And here I think the film shoots itself in the foot. As a satire, Borat uses humor to force America's racism and hypocrisy into the light, but because of its freakshow moments like the nude wrestling bit, it will mostly just win the hearts of the jackass crowd. College students will adore the quotable Borat; the rest of us will at best call it a guilty pleasure.