The Dictator

Director: Larry Charles

Notable Cast:  Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Jason Mantzoukas, John C. Reilly

Rating: R

Review:  Welp, Sacha Baron Cohen is back to belittling America with his new character Dictator Aladeen.  Well to be fair, Aladeen belittles everything.  Men.  Women.  Politics.  Nuclear Missile Heads.  Cows?  But where Borat and Brüno had a given shock value based on the mockumentary style shooting, The Dictator tries to spice things up with actual actors playing out a Hollywood plot.  And you know what?  I didn’t care for the addition.  With a film like Borat, viewers get a genuine reaction from the “supporting cast” who are oblivious to Sacha hiding behind his foreign mask.  So much comedy comes from people’s irrational thoughts and perceptions of Borat, a stereotype who isn’t even real.  This also gives Cohen the opportunity to exploit such fears and phobias with improv comedy, taking an unpredictable moment and ending with a result much funnier than intended.  The Dictator lacks such flair, and is rather confusing in delivery.  Cohen’s edgy comedy seems forced and almost mean-spirited at times, instead of the playful jesting in earlier works.  Audiences can’t differentiate if Cohen is being sarcastic, humorous, or opinionated via his character Aladeen.  How fantastic would it have been throwing Aladeen into a mocumentary medium, sending people away for execution in a crowd full of unsuspecting townspeople?  Sick, but hilarious.  That’s what Cohen does, well when he’s not lending his acting talents to random side projects like Sweeny Todd and Hugo (which he does a delightful job in).  For The Dictator, usual magic just wasn’t there, not to say Brüno was watchable either though.  Suffice to say, Sacha Baron Cohen still has the ability to make us laugh and has hilarious moments playing the ruthlessly moronic dictator.  But with negative notoriety, Aladeen surely won’t be rising back to power for any type of dictator comeback.

Ruling Wadiya with an iron fist, Aladeen (Cohen) is secretly developing a nuclear program strong enough to overpower surrounding nations.  Aided by his second-hand but rightful heir Tamir (Kingsley), Aladeen exploits his power on a daily basis and garners much attention for his tiny nation.  But with that attention comes U.N. questioning, eventually leading to possible nuclear arms inspections and regulations.  Wanting to avoid such a hassle, Aladeen offers to visit America in hopes to deliver a speech to the U.N. that will throw them off his radioactive trail.  But in America he is double crossed, and his identity is compromised.  No longer recognized as the feared Aladeen, he must navigate New York and find a way to take down whoever decided to defame his character and plant an impostor in his place who lobbies to turn Wadiya into a democracy.  But can a man who as been pampered and spoiled all his life survive the tough urban streets long enough to infiltrate the U.N.?  Aladeen can only hope his impostor blows cover if he ever wants to be graced with the title of dictator again.

The beard, real or fake hair?  Leaves a hell of a rash I bet…

Sacha Baron Cohen is a funny man.  No denying the fact he has talents others lack.  Or more correctly the shame and boundaries others have engrained in their civilian brain.  The Dictator was proper misuse of comedic stylings more suitable for off the cuff humor as I stated earlier, something Cohen and collaborator/director Larry Charles (Borat/Brüno) seem to misread.  Here, Aladeen’s interactions with other characters like Anna Faris’ love interest Zoey were more awkward than funny.  And not awkward funny.  Just awkward, trying too hard, sad.  Problems arise when Aladeen grabs Zoey’s boobs, and instead of laughing via situational humor I’m wishing Anna was a random girl on a random motorcycle with no idea why the weird foreign man is using her hooters as stabilizers.  A perfect Borat moment, but not as funny with trained actors for some reason.  Aladeen’s humor felt repetitive and predictable after a while, just saying the meanest or most politically incorrect statement available.  Yes, death to America, praise 9/11, blah blah blah…there’s a point where cutting edge and overkill meet, and Cohen brashly passes that point with far too much film left to go.  But, as I said, Cohen still rules at points such as playing his own dim-witted body double picked straight off the farm.  Watching him bumble around the U.N. stage and make a mockery of such proceedings hit me hard, proving The Dictator still had some fight and the prospect of huge Borat type laughs.  As far as witty political satire and intelligent social commentary, let’s just say The Dictator‘s funniest moment involved Sacha Baron Cohen pleasuring himself for a full scene.  Cohen won’t be breaking any third world barriers with this one.

The Dictator felt more like filler material than an actual film, just a project to keep Cohen busy and hopefully get a few chuckles.  All the usual crude jokes and no holds barred type comedy that made Cohen famous are found, but execution lessened Sacha’s attempts.  I take it back, The Dictator feels less like filler material and more like a cheap Borat sequel, charting familiar territory.  With Cohen’s ambition for out of the box comedy, The Dictator had an aura of safety and lacked uproarious bouts of insane laughter Cohen once achieved on a weekly basis with “Da Ali G. Show.”  I wanted something more dangerous from The Dictator, a film with more balls than brains.  And as Aladeen so grossly showed us in full view, not even the balls aspect is substantial.  Cameos liven up The Dictator and provide momentary relief, but the likes of Edward Norton and Megan Fox may have backed the wrong political party this year.  The Dictator will be adored by some and isn’t a chore to get through, but this is one follower who wasn’t convinced by Aladeen’s false proclamations.  Move on Sacha, there’s nothing left of explore with Aladeen’s character.

Final Rating: 6 revolting Wadiyans out of 10

Wouldn’t mind rocking the Olympic’s foundation though, give every competitor a gun!


About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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