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The Dictator commands you to laugh, but you’ll feel bad about it after.
Comedian/actor Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles team up for a third time in their latest, audacious attempt to outrage the politically correct. But, do they?
Audiences (like myself) who go into this film expecting a mockumentary, like Borat and Bruno, will be disheartened at first. Ten minutes in, it’s apparent that The Dictator is not like Cohen’s previous works – it’s contrived and theatrical.
Admiral General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) is the tyrannical playboy Dictator of Republic of Wadiya. Aladeen, whilst being besotted with power and his beard, really just craves true love. Alas, his nights whoring topical celebrities don’t grant him it.
Whilst in New York to attend a UN summit for signing of a democratic constitution for Wadiya, Aladeen is unceremoniously kidnapped (dictatornapped?) and shaved by John C. Reilly.
Without his beard, no-one recognises Aladeen, and he is taken under the wing of Zoey (Anna Faris). As the two of them hatch a plan to attend the summit, hilarity quickly becomes the only eventuality.
Aladeen is the another one of Cohen’s classic stereotypes, right in his home territory. The movie consistently attempts to push the idea that Aladeen is a beastly dictator, though that’s hard to believe when Cohen plays Aladeen as jovial and playful.
The plot of this movie is anarchic at best, which is a let-down. It almost seems as if Cohen writes the jokes first, and then writes the plot around it. Cohen’s co-star, Anna Faris, confided in Rolling Stone’s Rod Yates, “You’d have no idea of where a scene would go… It was constantly like, ‘Oh, OK, we’re going in another direction now I guess.’”
An extremely thin veneer lies between political correctness and offensiveness, a veneer that Cohen, masterfully, never scratches. Right from the get-go, you’re informed that the film is ‘in loving memory of Kim Jong-Il’. Throughout the movie you’ll be treated to an audible chorus of nervous chuckles from the rest of cinema.
The Dictator is a funny movie, that’s undeniable. However, don’t go into it expecting a moving or well-developed plot and don’t expect it to have the same charm as Cohen and Charles’s previous collaborations.
Aladeen won’t be remembered as fondly as Borat or Ali G, but at least he’s still funnier than Bruno.