Garrett's Review of The Dictator
THE DICTATOR is Sacha Baron Cohen's latest comedic iteration and third film with directorial collaborator Larry Charles. General Aldeen of the fictional North African country Wadiya is a comedic creation that inhibits the worst facets of dictatorship, and also the most ridiculous. Otherwise, why would you not make fun of a imbecile/man-child dictator in a character comedy such as this? For character inspiration, Cohen just had to look the news; because Aldeen is a bit of Kim Jong IL, a bit of Idi Amin, and even some Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (even though he's still considered a president, you know he acts like more than that).
Having maintained the man-child and ignorant personality traits of his previous comedic alter egos (Ali G., Borat, Bruno) Cohen delivers a performance that is more nuanced than one would expect from a one-man political-themed slapstick show. He delivers on the film's promise with a wildly erratic and wickedly insensitive sense of humor (which is his trademark, as we know) as well as surprising emotional depth.
Still, why we pay to see Cohen act is to experience the ferocious over-the-top humor he's known for. Instead the humor's focus on cultural shock displacement (BORAT) or just exploiting every gay or lesbian stereotype out there (BRUNO) in a mocku-mentary format, THE DICTATOR functions as a mainstream comedy that contains some of the most outrageous, sexual and quite crudely laden jokes and sequences in the political comedy sub-genre of the past few years. I may be wrong, but THE CAMPAIGN looks to be up there too.
Since ALI G INDAHOUSE came out in 2001, Cohen has set out to make movies out of every one of his personalities that he crated on DA Ali G Show when it was big on BBC. He continued the trend with the wildly successful and crazy funny BORAT and the less successful but still funny (albeit very queasily) BRUNO. THE DICTATOR drops the mocku-mentary format, picks up a normal narrative (written by Cohen) and smartly maintains the cultural shock displacement aspect of BRUNO by plopping Sacha Baron Cohen's Aldeen character in the middle of New York City during a key time for his beloved country Wadiya. NO spoilers here, folks.
Anyhow, THE DICTATOR never fails to entertain through sheer inventive and insensitive shock-humor and Cohen's one-man political-themed slapstick show. Anna Faris as Aldeen's friend-turned-love interest Zoe and Ben Kingsley as his political advisor/aid Tamir and loads of funny cameos from the likes of Megan Fox and Chris Parnell support Cohen all the way. As does director Larry Charles, whose understated direction gives the spotlight to Cohen all the way as well.
THE DICTATOR is short on the runtime and high on the laughs. That's what good comedy sets out to do, correct? Get in, make 'em laugh, finish with a bang. Thankfully, in Cohen's case, it's a big bang! He can get by without it being entirely sweet but there is interestingly some redeeming sweetness to be felt in this ferocious character/political-slapstick comedy. Just brace yourself for the torrent of wickedly insensitive and over-the-top humor that's sure to flow forth! From your from the movie into your gut!