‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ Will Have You Laughing, But Not for Long, Because Things Get Stressful Quick, But in an Edifying Way

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Bodies Bodies Bodies (CREDIT: Eric Chakeen/A24)

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, Lee Pace

Director: Halina Reijn

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: R for Generally Raucous Vibes That Make Everyone Ill-Prepared for the Bloodbath

Release Date: August 5, 2022 (Limited)/August 12, 2022 (Expands Wide)

What’s It About?: What’s the best thing to do during a hurricane? Hunker down for a house party, maybe? Eh, even if the building is sturdy enough to prevent any permanent damage, things could get messy. Which is to say, the characters of Bodies Bodies Bodies are putting themselves at risk. Emotional, physical, potentially lethal risk. The group of seven hanging out at the mansion are a mix of longtime friends and new lovers, as well as plenty of uninvited secrets and passive-aggressiveness. When the storm forces them inside for the night, they decide to play the titular party game, in which one person is assigned to play the “killer” who must be sussed out by the other players. But when one of them actually winds up dead, an impromptu murder investigation begins. And instead of banding together, they all find ways to be suspicious of each other.

What Made an Impression?: Like other great killer mystery thrillers, Bodies Bodies Bodies does a fine job of convincing us that everyone is a legitimate suspect. Just when I thought I’d identified the most secretive and cruel individual, somebody else does something equally thoughtless. Based on what we see, these are not very good friends. I was most reminded of 2015’s Unfriended, in which a Skype session turns deadly as each of the callers reveal just how profoundly awful they are. But the Bodies Bodies Bodies crew aren’t quite that terrible. Instead, they’re insecure young adults trying to figure out what to do with their lives, and they’re not finding any useful support from the other insecure people around them. If you add buckets of windy rain and a dead body to that powder keg, it’s not going to be a fun night.

It all resolves in a gut-punch of an ending that will have you going, “It’s just a movie. I should really just relax.” Because if you don’t, you’ll be stressed out for days, or potentially months even. These people shouldn’t be partying, they should be in therapy. (Well, maybe they can rage every once in a while if they maintain a healthy therapy schedule.) What if the sequel were a visit to a psychiatrist during a hurricane? I would definitely check that out. Anyway, if nothing else, Bodies Bodies Bodies is very much a warning that we should all come up with a plan ASAP for what to do if any of our friends suddenly winds up inexplicably dead.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is Recommended If You Like: Unfriended, Scream, Ready or Not

Grade: 4 out of 5 Machetes

Sacha Baron Cohen Can Still Clown Us Like No Other in ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’

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Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (CREDIT: Amazon Studios)

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova

Director: Jason Woliner

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: R for No-Holds-Barred Outrageousness

Release Date: October 23, 2020 (Amazon Prime Video)

About four and a half minutes into Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Kazakhstani reporter Borat Sagdiyev says “My wife,” and when I heard it, all felt right in the world. The first Borat flick came out on November 3, 2006, and on November 4, 2006, the world became overrun with hacky Borat impressions. In the fourteen years hence, his catchphrases have gone through a cycle of sincere to ironic to post-ironic and back again about 14 times (or maybe 1400 times). Somehow, though, Baron Cohen is now able to slide back into his famous creation without suffering one bit under the weight of his legacy. Borat’s reputation is primarily about his ability to hold up a mirror to society, but he’s also a fascinating character in his own right, layered with so many levels of absurd details. Joining that absurd litany is his daughter Tutar, brought to dementedly go-for-broke life by Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova.

A new Borat film is enough justification for a chaotic imp like myself to pepper all my conversations with outbursts of “wah wah wee wah” and “very nice,” but will everyone else be speaking the same language, as they were back in 2006? My gut says no, because it’s nearly impossible to recreate a phenomenon like that, but also because this sequel won’t have the benefit of huge crowds enjoying it together in packed theaters. Of course, that formula is a bit different in the midst of a pandemic, so there’s a chance that Subsequent Moviefilm actually could hit the zeitgeist pretty hard as a straight-to-streaming release. But ultimately, to my mind anyway, that shouldn’t be the main goal of this endeavor. The most important question to ask ourselves should be (and I cannot reiterate this enough): after watching this film, does saying “my wife!” feel funnier than it did before? In my case, the answer is “absolutely.”

As much of a big deal as I’m making of the “my wife” of it all, it should be noted that that gag is a relatively small portion of the running time. Ostensibly, Baron Cohen’s goal is to once again expose the dark, bigoted underbelly lurking within America. But if you’ve lived in this country for the past few years, you might have noticed that there’s not that much left that needs exposing. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still revelations to be had. The MAGA types that Borat encounters along the way behave pretty much as you expect them to. But once he tells them stories about the backwards traditions of his fictional Kazakhstan, it starts to get interesting. Some people play along, perhaps just to be polite, while others double down on their prejudiced impulses. But then there are those moments when the most knee-jerk conspiratorial thoughtfully disagree with him, laying bare the sort of pretzel logic that is perhaps quite commonplace in human society.

While the improvised interactions with civilians are frequently poignant, it’s the scripted moments that I found most hilarious. The plot is driven by Borat’s mission to deliver to Vice President Mike Pence (“America’s most famous ladies man”) a gift of Johnny the Monkey, Kazakhstan’s most popular primate porn star. But when that goes awry, the plan changes to him offering the teenage Tutar as a new wife for Pence (or whomever in Donald Trump’s orbit will take her). Baron Cohen is famed for his clown training, and Bakalova matches (and often tops) him in her willingness to transform into the most comical possible version of herself.

As outrageous as their antics mostly are, there’s also a sweet, beating heart at the core of their interactions. He wants her to sleep in the biggest, most comfortable cage in the world, and she loves him for his efforts to do so, but she eventually starts to wonder if maybe the fairy tales she’s heard about women not being able to do pretty much anything aren’t as true as she once thought. (The revolution she endures when confronted with the truth actually reminds me of the fight scene in They Live, with its similar underscoring of the disruption inherent to having your eyes opened.) So while Borat’s cries of “my wife” have been delightfully echoing in our ears for quite some time, maybe now they’ll also be paired with proud proclamations of “my daughter.”

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is Recommended If You Like: Hearty Belly Laughs, Fractured Fairy Tales, Cultural Icons That Endure Much Longer Than Expected

Grade: 4 out of 5 Hrams