REVIEW: The Dictator
Sacha Baron Cohen's unique brand of offensive humour succeeds in 'The Dictator'
Sacha Baron Cohen is looking to stir up some controversy once again, and this time it’s with his new film, The Dictator. Written by and starring Baron Cohen as the titular dictator, General Aladeen, the film is directed by Larry Charles — director of previous Baron Cohen films Borat and Bruno — and also stars Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention much to movies in the past year, the film is centered around General Aladeen’s trip to the UN in New York City and the hilarious culture clashing that ensues.
General Aladeen, who “lovingly oppresses” the people of the fictional North African country of Wadiya, is based on a hilarious mixture of Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jeong-Il, and the ever insane Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In this respect, Baron Cohen isn’t afraid to pull any punches when it comes to offending these people. In fact, there’s very few people that won’t come out offended after seeing The Dictator — but that’s not a bad thing.
While Baron Cohen’s Borat had people hailing him as a comedic genius that takes offensiveness to a new level and uses it to expose stupidity, Bruno was more along the lines of being offensive just to be offensive. For fans of Baron Cohen who were worried that The Dictator would follow along the lines of Bruno rather than Borat, that’s definitely not the case. The Dictator, although completely scripted and Baron Cohen’s most conventional film to date, is a welcome return to form for the comedian and should leave everyone watching thoroughly entertained.
The story, which plays out like a romantic comedy, is a little light and in some parts makes no sense at all; but there’s enough clever satire and smart social commentary to make The Dictator a must watch. Although not quite as funny as Borat, The Dictator still has enough laughs to fill several movies; even though the film is only about an hour and 15 minutes, which is incredibly short for a comedy these days. While the short running time is understandable considering that stretching the plot out any thinner would have caused serious story problems for the film, it’s regrettable that we don’t get to spend more time in the fictional world that The Dictator takes place in.
The film is at its best when it’s focusing on real-life situations and turning them into comedic gold. While The Dictator is set in an over-the-top world, it’s not hard to believe that General Aladeen is based on a few real people. Even his country’s nuclear intentions in the film are taken straight out of the news and are a not-at-all veiled allusion to Iran. When, in the film, General Aladeen goes on TV and tries to announce with a straight face that his country’s enriching of weapons-grade uranium is “definitely not to destroy Israel,” it’s nearly impossible not to laugh. Although the film consists of jokes about suicide bombers, the 1972 Munich Games, and the oppression of millions of people, Baron Cohen manages to handle it all perfectly and make light of it in the best way possible.
Although much in the film can come off as a little amateur, such as the undermining of a plot just for a joke or the often-unrealistic changes that some of the characters go through, The Dictator gets past its few problems by being one of the most consistently funny movies since Borat. With almost every joke being double sided and a reference to real life events, there’s tons of things to satisfy even the most serious movie-goer…besides the occasional physical comedy gag or (literally) potty humor. Although there is certainly not a shortage of great R-Rated Comedies in recent years, not since Borat has there been something so offensive that also manages to be so utterly funny.