Grade: B+ (RENT IT)
KING OF OVERKILL, Sacha Baron Cohen (“Hugo,” “Bruno”) delivers the cringe-worthy laughs as a North African autocrat in the shock-comedy “The Dictator.” Cohen has built a comic career on exploiting our most popular and pernicious prejudices: anti-Semitism in 2006’s “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” and homophobia in 2009’s “Bruno.” Understatement has never been in the Cambridge grad’s repertoire. As Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen (sounds like “half-ass Aladdin”), the oppressive leader of the fictional nation Wadiya, Cohen rules his people with an iron fist. He sees women as disposable and orders the execution of his underlings and weapons experts with a simple flip of a switch. Described as “eccentric with unlimited oil wealth,” Aladeen is the comic embodiment of Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias, replete with “wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command” and boy is it funny when he falls.
Before that fall from power, however, Aladeen beds Megan Fox in an opulent seraglio before fixing a Polaroid of her to a wall of his past conquests (including Oprah and Arnold Schwarzenegger). Sliding out of the Admiral’s satin sheets after collecting her pay, Fox grumbles: “Katy Perry got a diamond bracelet.” There’s some irony in the casting: Ben Kingsley, who played the Prince of Peace Mahatma Gandhi back in 1982, plays the Dictator’s Uncle Tamir; he shepherds Aladeen to the United Nations where, in a spoof of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s antics before the General Assembly, the leader’s body double drinks his own urine and makes a mockery of international diplomacy. Once his double supplants him, leaving the real Admiral lost and anonymous in New York, “The Dictator” borrows from such fish-out-of-water classics as “Being There” and “Coming to America.”
The always outsized Cohen is cushioned by Anna Faris, an anti-Aladeen activist with unshaven armpits and described as a “lesbian Hobbit.” He’s directed by Larry Charles (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), also his collaborator on “Borat” and “Bruno.” Charles and Cohen make a devious duo. It’s taken ten years to make September 11th jokes. Too soon? Apparently not. One of the funniest bits – and indeed “The Dictator” feels like an extended bit, an “SNL” skit that goes on a bit too long – involves two tourists, trapped in a helicopter tour of New York, terrified to hear Aladeen and friend pointing at the Manhattan skyline while making kablooey sounds. Proudly politically incorrect, “The Dictator” not only makes a laughing stock of Islamic theocracies but the West’s sense of moral superiority.
“Fascist?” he asks, aghast. “You say it like it’s a bad thing!”
Nice review Colin, I wish I had watched this instead of Dark Shadows. I was hoping this was going to be worth watching and it looks like it is.
Was traveling and not able to really hit the movies; a friend though returned from DARK SHADOWS and said to avoid it. I haven’t really loved the later Burton and tired of the Johnny Depp shticks. THE DICTATOR is daffy but fun. Thanks for reading.
Your friend is a friend in deed as that was good advice 🙂
I have yet to see a Cohen film. This one does look quite humorous, though. As for Dark Shadows as I said in my review it would have been nice to have a little Dark to go along with the shadows. Tim Burton is beginning to seem like a third Farrelly brother.
Seriously, nice observation; he’s definitely lost the noir in need of big-budget nonsense. Tired, too, of Depp’s antics. Nice DUEL review; that’s what got Spielberg rolling, literally!
I like Johnny Depp the actor. You know, the guy that was so damn good in Donnie Brasco and Ed Wood? I’m tired of Johnny Depp the franchise player and personally think he should hang up the next time Tim Burton comes a calling.
Good to see you back reviewing Colin. I wondered if you’d taken a vacation. I’m not a fan of political correctness that’s why I like Bill Maher but shock ridicule that Cohen does doesnkt turn my crank. After reading your review I may just see this to see what the fuss is about. I’m more a political statements within a drama sort of guy like in Ides of March.
As foir Depp agreed his bits with Tiim Burton are getting repetitive. I loved him in Sweeney Todd and his cameo in 21 Jump Street; the latter being a surprise comedic hit.
Sorry I missed “21” because it was actually well-reviewed as somewhat fresh. I traveled to New Jersey/New York to see family, so, yes, I was offline for a week. Trying to catch “Bernie” which looks fun, and with Shirley M.! Thanks for reading.
it seems like the same joke as borat. not exactly but in the ballpark. no thanks on this one.
Probably not the wrong response. Hard to top the highly offensive and unforgettable BORAT.
Not the funniest thing to have ever graced the screen, but it still made me laugh a lot more than I expected to. It’s just a shame that Cohen may be doing these kinds of movies for the rest of his career, considering he’s a bit too famous for the mockumentary stuff. Good review Colin.
Thanks Dan though he was strong in HUGO!
How was it you put it that one time, “Did you and I see the same movie”? 😀
I have no love for this one. Not funny, and occasionally borders on genuinely offensive (a danger of trying to mine humor by being shocking I suppose).
I’ll be all too happy not to watch this one again.
Ha, that one must have stung a bit eh? Yeah, I’m more or less alone here. A friend said: you don’t recommend any movies and since THE DICTATOR was enjoyed after drinks and dinner – the audience has to be into it, too – it was a good time all around. Perhaps the setting makes the cinematic experience? Going to put you in my blogroll now…thanks for reading! Trying to catch BERNIE this week before CHERNOBYL DIARIES…
Good review… You liked it a little more than I did. My problem is the laughs are like a roller coaster. Some are great… Others fall flat really hard. Also at 80 minutes it just didn’t seem worth the price for the ticket.
Prob agree here; then again, no one will want THE DICTATOR to last longer than it already is! Short and sweet? Thanks for reading; what are you reviewing next?