I think Sacha Baron Cohen is great. He’s insanely funny, smart as hell, brave, and obviously a wildly successful character actor. And with all that in mind I expect a bit more out of the guy who brought me to tears with his prior work. His character Aladeen in The Dictator just doesn’t hit the mark of Bruno or Borat. He’s a terrible guy, a self-centered egomaniac with an off-with-their-heads approach to dictatorship. Baron Cohen plays the character with his signature brand of humor, very ridiculous and very purposefully offensive. The difference with this film is his lines aren’t off the cuff like his previous mockumentary efforts, and the writing just isn’t as funny. It’s pretty predictable actually, a word I never associated with Baron Cohen before. The jokes actually reminded me a bit too much of the Adam Sandler movie You Don’t Mess With the Zohan minus the excessive hummus jokes. The cultural references to the Middle East just aren’t really fresh—the helicopter scene from the trailer is one that lands the best to me. Even Anna Faris, who I think can be hilarious has barely any material to work with and the romantic story they try to build between them pretty much fizzles.
Baron Cohen has always made a statement with his work, made you wince at the behavior and attitudes that you can’t believe others have, while just seems to be more at the expense of those he’s mocking. I’m not that self-righteous about it. I won’t say that I didn’t laugh throughout or that I scoffed at it necessarily. I just couldn’t get into it, and at times it really was quite dumb. I’d prefer to see Baron Cohen doing something very different, more Jean Girard in Talladega Nights than a paler imitation of Borat. It’s not as fun when I know he’s not getting away with something but I know he’s damn funny. This movie is okay, good for a few laughs but there’s far funnier fare to enjoy than this.
In short, The Dictator was Aladeen. Oh, you’re not from Wadiya, are you? Well Aladeen means good, actually it also means bad (along with a slew of other things). That being said it pretty accurately sums up The Dictator. I’m not usually one for “silly” comedies. I didn’t like Bruno, Borat was okay, The Dictator was above average. I actually found it really humorous. When you see Kim Jong Il’s face during the opening credits, along with a dedication, you sort of know you’re going to laugh during this movie. And laugh you shall. The movie follows the leader of a west-african nation, Wadiya, through his struggles against the UN and democracy in general. Admiral General Aladeen is played by Sacha Baron Cohen who is forced to live the life of a commoner in the US as he plots is plan to return to his native country and, well, dictate. This movie is so over the top that you can’t help but laugh, there are jokes at every turn, and not just subtle jokes but jokes that bash you over the head and force you to laugh. After all what’s funnier than arabs, bigotry, and a fascist dictatorship? The dialogue is well-written and well executed er, umm, performed. The supporting actors/actresses do well in their roles, I was pleasantly surprised by Anna Faris and Ben Kingsley, who really excelled in their roles. My biggest gripe is the length of this movie, it’s less than 90 minutes which is a feature film faux pas. I went into it expecting a repeat of Borat, but I was very pleased to find that this film took on a life all its own. This isn’t a must see by any means, but it’s definitely worth a watch. Particularly if you like to laugh.