Sacha Baron Cohen attending the UK film premiere of 'The Dictator' held at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre in London. ***UK, IRELAND, DUBAI, USA AND CANADIAN USE ONLY***. (Pacific Coast News)more pics » The Bottom Line
Should you see it?
A downright Cohen film and an important one as it marks his departure from reality-based comedies - it's highly offensive and highly hilarious.
Sacha Baron Cohen's newest assault on the conservative masses is highly offensive, downright crass, and frequently hilarious. The Dictator marks an important milestone for the star of the much-maligned and beloved Borat and Bruno films. Eschewing the pseudo-reality filmmaking that made him a star, Cohen has merged his world of marginal comedy with classic genre comedy and the result is a movie that will be hated and loved just like everything else he has done.
Like his comedic forefathers (Mel Brooks and Peter Sellers to name two) Cohen has mastered dual roles within the same project. In The Dictator, he plays Admiral General Aladeen, the tyrant of the fictitious country of Wadiya in the middle east. Aladeen is usurped by his ambitious brother Tamir (Ben Kingsley), who tries to have him killed while replacing him with a moronic proxy named Efawadh (Cohen). Tamir has plans to make Wadiya democratic so he can sell the country's rich oil fields to the highest bidders. They travel to the U.N. to make the announcement, but Aladeen survives the attempt and is let loose in America. As he tries to save his country from democracy, Aladeen attempts to survive in New York City and falls in love with a "hairy lesbian boy" (a pixied Anna Faris).
While you may be facepalming at this plot, it's of little consequence. What is important is how Cohen manages to juice incredible amounts of comedy out of every scene in the most absurdly offensive ways imaginable. In no other movie this year or next will you see someone go for big laughs by joking about September 11th or killing babies. It puts him in a league with the likes of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who are unafraid of anyone or anything in the noble pursuit of what's funny.
The Dictator opens with a dedication to Kim Jong-Il and features a first-person shooter Wii video game where the goal is to kill Jewish Olympians at Munich. Cohen also graciously gives us a full-frontal shot of Aladeen's manhood as he crashes into a window. It's not enough to show the Dictator's genitals, they need to come swinging right at us and then pancake against the glass.
The intense goofiness of the film is its greatest asset. Before he loses his title and country, Aladeen is an Arab Billy Madison, overseeing his vast empire with the whimsical nature of a drunken manchild. He orders executions, sleeps with movie stars (Megan Fox has a cameo), and nosedives Wadiya's burgeoning nuclear projects. Cohen's portrait is spot-on, simultaneously lampooning the immense power of real-life dictators like Gaddafi while not forgetting the influence of affluent American one-percenters and our culture of "In Wealth We Trust."
If Borat and Bruno served to expose the phobias of America, The Dictator does something similar. Using the insanity of Admiral General Aladeen, Cohen draws political and societal similarities between the Dictator's world and the current United States government. It's a non-subtle use of satire but an effective one, reduced to be idiot-proof.
The film will inevitably be compared to Borat and Bruno, but they were different kinds of movies. The audience was in on the joke because we knew Cohen wasn't really a Kazakh refugee and the humor was coming at the expense of the rubes onscreen. In The Dictator, Cohen and director Larry Charles are fully running the show. The audience can only sit back and watch to see what Cohen will do next, whether he's kicking a child who wise-cracks him, or offering to dispose of a newborn infant because it's a girl.
The Dictator marks a coming of age for Cohen, who has evolved his joke-writing past the point of simply laughing at someone's expense. A clever ruse is one thing, but actually writing and executing a funny script shows confidence and a vulnerability not to be found in Borat or Bruno. In The Dictator, the laughs are all on Cohen, and he delivers with admirable conviction.
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