The Prestige

Starring Sacha Baron Cohen. Directed by Larry Charles.
Running Time: 83 minutes
Rated: Rated MA15+: Strong sexual references and crude humour

Any of the work of Sacha Baron Cohen is an acquired taste. His Ali G was a hit on television, less so in the feature film, Ali G in Da House. He did a very good turn as the gay French racing driver in Talladega Nights. Now, he risks a lot in becoming Borat. Will audiences in the British tradition like it and find it funny? Despite any misgivings about tastes and targets, yes. Will audiences with in the American tradition of humour enjoy it? Since they are the targets and not all the jokes are tasteful, the answer is, probably not.

Baron Cohen's persona this time is a television personality from Kazakhstan where life is the equivalent of an impoverished, illiterate community in the repressive fifties. This is a rather easy target and we can all laugh at the jokes at the expense of yokel equivalents (and, to that extent, the satire is funny while rather cruel). It should be noted that Borat is not afraid of bringing in (and frequently), scatological jokes (literally) and sex jokes. He relishes them. One has to remind oneself that everything human can be the subject of humour especially subjects that we are fastidious about.

Once Borat starts his tour of America, with outlandish behaviour that alarms the locals and with plenty of obtuse remarks and questions, it is really the equivalent of a candid camera program. Borat makes his way across the States, introducing himself in the subway and trying to kiss everyone, interrogating a feminist group, learning to drive and buying a car, finding out about American jokes and timing, talking to politicians, joining a gay pride march, smashing antiques in a store, learning etiquette (and dramatising how the best advice can still to awry), singing his national anthem at a rodeo to the tune of the Star Spangled banner, making friends with an escort, converted at a Pentecostal meeting etc etc until he tries to abduct Pamela Anderson, the object of his dreams.

There are some funny episodes at the expense of anti-Semitism.

This is one of those films that are funny, despite oneself wanting to be both in control and refined.

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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