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“The Dictator” is the new film from Sacha Baron Cohen, who brought us “Borat” and “Bruno”, and even though this film is more narrative than a “gotcha”-style of guerilla comedy, it still exists in the same plane of throw-everything-at-you humor.
Cohen plays the Admiral General Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya. You can tell from the first frame of the film – a dedication to Kim Jong-Il – that he’s not going to treat modern dictators with kid gloves. Nor should he? Is there any group of idiots on the planet more deserving of being ripped to shreds in a comedy? I mean, there’s nothing to like about these guys, so have at, Sacha.
Plot-wise, during a visit to America, where he’s scheduled to speak to the U.N., Aladeen is snatched by Federal Agents, debearded, and released to fend for himself on the streets of New York. In this framework, it’s a free-for-all, gag-wise – race humor, religious humor, slapstick, gross-out, profanity, topical stuff, he goes after it all. The downside is that there’s so much, it doesn’t all hit, least of all, the profanity. This film occasionally falls victim to what many recent comedies do – swearing in place of a better joke. Then the movie will then turn around and deliver a great scene that’s all dialogue and characters that works perfectly.
In the story, Aladeen ends up reuniting with another Wadiyan named Nadal in NY who he previously thought he had executed. Together they have great dialogue, at least three times, and it’s a great bit to wisely keep going back to so if a bit where somebody gets pooped on falls flat, well, next thing you know we’re back in a conversation between Aladeen and Nadal, and those are pretty funny.
You gotta have thick skin to see this movie. Cohen and director Larry Charles gleefully seem to not care about offending anybody, and they shouldn’t. But even if The Dictator says something offensive towards women or talks down to a religion for comic effect, the joke is ultimately on the terrorist dictator himself, and I think if terrorists and dictators are offended by this film – who cares? Subsequently, if you are offended, that means you might be a terrorist, so sit on that for a while.
Larry Charles has directed all of Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedies, and he also directed a film called “Religulous”, a documentary featuring Bill Maher. In that film, Maher goofs on various religious targets like Bible theme parks, waiting till the end to deliver sort of “closing argument”, which drives home his real point of the doc. That kind of thing is here, too, Aladeen has a monologue at the end of the film that is wonderful, straight-faced satire of the current state of America, that’s worth sticking around through any bad joke to get to. Sadly, however, that ending is then coupled with a bit of heart, and heart is foreign territory for Cohen, and it felt a little put on.
Lots of jokes from the trailer AREN’T in the movie. That may be because the film has such a hard R rating that you couldn’t really show many clips on television.
So overall, this is not a great movie, but has loads of funny stuff in it. I think Cohen’s opened and closed the door on terrorist comedies in one fell swoop.
Directed by: Larry Charles
Release Date: May 16, 2012
Run Time: 83 Minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures