DVD Review

by Joel Smith & r & & r & Borat & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & ow did Sacha Baron Cohen not bring home an acting Oscar for this picture? Granted, it's hard to stack Baron Cohen's befuddled, na & iuml;ve Kazakhstani news reporter against Forest Whitaker's Idi Amin. But Borat is one of the best-developed, most surprising comedic characters in years. What's more, the film's experimentation with format (the show within the show, blending the real with the staged) made Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan one of the freshest films of 2006.

For a project this progressive, it's surprising not to find it on the cutting edge of DVD production. Released last week, this edition has no audio commentary, no "making of," no blooper reel. Most lamentably, it lacks the long-awaited footage of Baron Cohen's first siege on Pamela Anderson -- in which he washed ashore on an inflatable turtle in Malibu and tackled her to the sand.

It does include a featurette on Baron Cohen's many in-character press junket appearances (in Cannes, on Conan, trying to bed Martha Stewart on The Tonight Show), a Kazakhstani soundtrack commercial, a Baywatch spoof and a handful of deleted scenes.

The deleted scenes, though spotty, supply some of the character's finest moments. Borat seeks advice on how to cook a dog from the proprietor of an animal shelter. He asks a plastic surgeon if he can make Borat's penis the same size as Tommy Lee's ("So you cannot reduce my penis to this size?"). And he channels Andy Kaufman during an excruciating four-minute scene in which he tours the cheese case at a grocery store, pointing at each and every bag, block and tub of cheese -- one by one -- and asking, "And what is thee-is? And what about thee-is? This is coffee? And thee-is one?" The grocer puts up with it, as the bit goes from funny to irritating to wildly funny to stupid to hysterical.

Baron Cohen never breaks character on this DVD, never offering a glimpse behind the curtain. It's frustrating, but it's fitting. That the man can keep up the shtick while the rest of us squirm and avert our eyes is surely Oscar-worthy. (Rated R)