- Buy the book
Reviewed by Jeff Giles
o matter how much you might have loved “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the guerilla-comedy pioneer that busted millions of guts in theaters last year, you’ve got to admit that this book’s timing seems a bit…curious, to say the least. Even if “Borat” was, as Reelviews’ James Berardinelli suggested, “the funniest comedy of the year,” what’s its tie-in doing landing on shelves a year later?
It does a few things, actually – unfortunately, few of them are very funny.
The chief problem here is one of format. Many of the funniest moments in “Borat” were derived from his unwitting subjects’ reactions to the increasingly ridiculous situations they were thrust into. Borat, the obnoxious Kazakh celebrity played to unerring perfection by Sacha Baron Cohen, courted public disaster (and grievous bodily harm) through the bulk of the film, and it was impossible to turn away. Here, all you get is page after page of Borat’s ignorance, framed either by unwarranted pride in his ass-backwards nation (“Activity sportive very prevalent in Kazakhstan. Most popular sports is Swimmings, Ping Pong, Discodance, Rape, Footballs and Throwing Rocks on Gypsies”) or ostensibly hilarious misunderstandings about American culture (underneath a picture of Borat with a man in gold lame hotpants, the caption reads “For just 10 US Dollar I receive a most excellent mouth-party from this beautiful lady”).
Bits and pieces of the book are funny, and the writers avoid running too many gags into the ground by splitting it into halves – flip it one way, and it’s 109 pages about Kazakhstan; flip it another, and it’s 67 pages about America – but when you find yourself chuckling for the first time in half an hour over a mention of Disneyland’s “asshole dog Goofy,” you know you aren’t dealing with a comedy classic. Which is fine, really; nobody expects much from cash-grab tie-ins like this. It’s just hard to imagine who’s going to rush out and drop $25 on a Borat book long after the movie has passed through theaters and DVD shelves. Perhaps Cohen is pulling another meta gag, only this time it’s on the suits at Doubleday.That would be pretty funny, actually. But there’s still no reason for you to spend money on this.