According to preliminary box-office figures, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan hit the No. 1 spot this weekend with an estimated $26.4 million gross. Unlike some of my colleagues, I think 20th Century Fox's limited-release pattern was pure genius. As I've posted elsewhere: If the movie had hit the No. 1 spot while playing in 3,000 theaters, it would be perceived as a hit. In 800 or so theaters, it is perceived as a phenomenon. Now you tell me: What gets more ink, causes more buzz, raises more want-to-see enthusiasm -- a hit or a phenomenon?
For what it's worth: I caught Borat at a 7 o'clock screening last night here in Houston at the AMC 30. It was in one of the biggest auditoriums -- but the house was only half full. The response was largely enthusiastic, however. (I must admit: I laughed loudest at a throwaway sight gag that I don't want to spoil; suffice it to say it involves a bear and a refrigerator.) Once again, unlike some of my colleagues, I can't say I found it any more shocking or "transgressive" than, say, National Lampoon's Van Wilder (remember the eclairs filled with dog semen?) or jackass number two (take your pick of any scene). And I really don't believe all the documentary-style "set-ups" are on the up-and-up. (Note that the filmmakers weren't forced to blur the faces of any "unsuspecting" interview subjects, as often happens in the Jackass movies.) But, hell, funny is funny, and much of the movie is bust-a-gut hilarious.
BTW: Did they have to abruptly cut off the final scene because a gag didn't work? I'm talking about Borat's introduction of his new "wife" back home. I felt like a punchline or a pay-off got left on the cutting room floor. Anyone out there know anything about this?