Monday, November 13, 2006

Borat: can $67 million gross (domestically) be wrong?

Those of you who know me, even only through the blog, know that I am an enthusiastic fan of sixth-grade boy humor. Talladega Nights? Loved it. Snakes on a Plane? Tolerated it well, and shouted back at the screen frequently. Wedding Crashers? Old School? South Park? Love them all. And I actually like the Three Stooges.

So my reaction to Borat (look it up if you want the full title) was a surprise. Sure, there was some funny stuff; a chicken always makes for laughs. And I like Sacha Baron Cohen, who is clearly a Smart Guy; he made a great fake Frenchperson in Talladega Nights. But there's broad ethnic satire, and then there's Borat.

My chief complaint: the film is dumb dumb instead of clever dumb. The naked fat guy wrestling with Cohen is just gross, not funny. And yes, lot's of stuff is offensive--in a very stupid way. Yes, I know that the anti-Semitic jokes are supposed to be OK because Cohen is, duh, Jewish, but I don't buy that. Plus the jokes are stupid. Yet, the audience -- a goodly number of people for a Monday matinee -- was going wild, laughing hysterically.

Which leads me to wonder: Have I in some way jumped the shark, personally, if I don't think Borat is funny? Have I reached the point at which the leading cultural phenomena no longer amuse or entice me?

Naah. Not yet. I just don't like extended, and extended, and extended jokes that rest on the discomfort of more and more and more people. So Borat shows off about how crude and stupid he is, while speaking what sounds like a fake Slavic language (his greetings are mispronounced Polish). My reaction was a big, so what? I don't feel particularly indignant about this, just baffled.

But I'd go back to see the chicken star in a movie in an instant.

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