The Dictator is not for those easily offended. It’s much like Sacha Baron Cohen‘s other collaborations with director Larry Charles (Borat & Bruno), only this time Cohen and Charles takes it to the furthest point. The Dictator is courageously offensive and perhaps Cohen’s most over-the-top role yet. I’d even argue it his best between the trio of comedies, but some might not agree. It’s not necessarily clever or witty in its delivery, but it’s a riot of nonstop laughter and jokes that you can’t believe made it to the big screen.
Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) is the rich dictator of Wadiya. He’s a stereotypical dictator and that’s what makes him so funny. He hates all races, supports terrorism and doesn’t think women’s rights are a serious matter. He executes anyone that doesn’t agree with him and he basically lives his life on his own terms, until America and the rest of the United Nations threatens to do something about his careless behavior.
He must go to America and sign a treaty that makes Wadiya a free country, with voting power and equal rights for all. Aladeen could give two shits about freedom in Wadiya, but his trusted friend Tamir (Ben Kingsley) sees this as an opportunity to get rid of Aladeen and spread the wealth between him and other powerful nations, so he sets up a plan that rids Aladeen of his iconic beard.
Now, trapped in America without anyone’s help, Aladeen must climb his way back to the top and prove that he is who he says he is.
There’s a lot to like about The Dictator. For starters, Sacha Baron Cohen does this kind of comedy extremely well and The Dictator is very much a continuation (and bettering) of Borat and Bruno. I really disliked Bruno and I think The Dictator is a pretty big step forward or at least in the right direction. There are Cohen’s typical penis jokes and hairy beards/armpits and other areas that I’d rather talk about jokes, but there’s also a few brief moments where the film actually deals with some of the current problems in America.
These brief moments are towards the end and do feel a bit forced, but I like the general nature of it all and I think it helps show the bigger picture that Cohen and Charles are looking at. They want to offend you and make you hate them. They also love it when you feel uncomfortable and downright disgusted with them, but they also have a message, usually hidden and buried deep down, under all of their films.
People complain that Cohen is an idiot and just an immature prick, but I beg to differ. He’s not going about these topics like Charlie Chaplin would have, but he’s certainty attempting to open our eyes a bit more. Maybe I’m looking into this a little bit too much and if so then whatever, because The Dictator still works as a film that makes you laugh, really hard.
I’m one for darker comedies and ones that poke at touchy subjects in a childish manner and The Dictator does that. Some of the jokes are kind of smart and subtle in there delivery, while others are simply thrown out there and not well planned, but both stick the same and the resulting laughter lingers for a few minutes.
Another plus in The Dictator is the casting and the camera. Finally, they’ve managed to recruit comedic talent like John C. Reilly and (who would have thought?) Ben Kingsley. Even Megan Fox elicits a chuckle, even though her segment was highly advertised in trailers/TV spots.
The camera is finally where it needs to be, out of the story. The Dictator isn’t a documentary like Cohen’s other films. This time it’s simply a movie and The Dictator benefits from that because now we don’t have Cohen constantly looking at the camera or doing things that just wouldn’t work if there was an actual person filming his every move.
Larry Charles‘ direction is kind of flat and uninventive, but the star attraction is Cohen and his absurdity and The Dictator provides you with plenty of that. It would have been nice if someone more skilled behind the lens was in charge, but it’s really a minor speed bump.
I must stress that if you didn’t care for any of Cohen’s last films then you certainty won’t like The Dictator. It’s the exact same schtick, but with the topics and characters changed up. It is much better than Bruno, but that’s because Cohen and Charles work with a lot more than typical gay stereotypes that can feel a bit too repetitive. Some might find The Dictator to be too dumb or stupid, but others will appreciate its lack of subtly and brutal honesty in its intentions and with its characters.
The Dictator – 8/10