Every decade throws up a handful of comedies which, no matter how many times you've seen them, always seem as funny as the first time - the lines are endlessly quotable and the feelgood factor never fails to kick in. In the 1970s came 'Animal House' and 'The Life of Brian'; in the 1980s 'The Blues Brothers', 'The Man with Two Brains' and 'This is Spinal Tap'; the 1990s gave us 'Kingpin' and 'There's Something About Mary' and by the time we reach 2010 there will hopefully be a few other films joining 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan' up there on the podium.
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's bungling Kazak reporter first appeared on 'Da Ali G' show but was overshadowed in terms of public recognition by the series' titular character. But while Ali G was the first of Cohen's creations to make the jump to the big screen, the resulting film showed how limited the character was and that when taken out of the context of spoof interviews with real-life people the comedy, while entertaining, was predictable.
Cohen shows he has learned his lesson with Borat: by keeping the format of Borat's TV sketches he offers Kuzcek's favourite son countless possibilities to offend and upset. The result is the funniest film of the year and one where a solitary trip to the cinema may not suffice.
The plot finds Borat dispatched by the Kazak government to the US in a bid to get to grips with the American culture and psyche - he doesn't find too much of one while the other is often scary enough to make anyone catch the first flight home. Along the way Borat gets distracted from the job at hand when he catches sight of Pamela Anderson on TV. Soon the shooting schedule is changed and Borat convinces his esteemed producer Azamat Bagatov (Davitian) that they really have to go to California to make their film as good as possible.
Cohen's greatest strength as a comedian is that he just doesn't care - either about whom he upsets or how he embarrasses himself. In 'Borat' both elements collide to produce something which has never been seen on a cinema screen before, with one scene in particular involving Borat and Azamat Bagatov heading straight into the annals of comedy history. It's a film where, in between drying your eyes, you'll shake your head in disbelief at the sheer insanity of what's going on in front of you - and perhaps feel a bit uncomfortable about how no-one is spared in the name of comedy. If you're easily offended or sensitive, stick with the re-runs of 'Friends'.
While the Kazak government have been none too happy about Cohen's depiction of their country and people it's Americans who end up as the real buffoons of this movie. From the gung-ho rodeo crowd, to terrified New Yorkers, misogynistic college students and countless others, the joke is really on the US, not, as Borat might put it, 'the flag of the hawk'. The fact that Borat is lusting after Canadian-born Pamela Anderson is one of those great little digs that, like many things here, is even funnier afterwards.
While the ending is a huge anticlimax, it's easy to forgive because so much of what's gone before is unforgettable. Having shown how far he's willing to go in the name of a laugh, there is plenty more mileage left in Borat yet and sequels just waiting for Cohen to make. Amidst all the over-the-top gags - and the argument that some go too far over-the-top is a very valid one - he's a master at showing up bad attitudes and idiotic beliefs and in a perfect world everyone would laugh at themselves a bit more and afterwards try to understand each other a lot more.
There's probably more chance of Borat wooing Pamela Anderson. But if he can dream then so can we.