The Dictator Review
by Daniel Rester
Sacha Baron Cohen has become the master of offensive comedy over the past few years with films such as Borat and Bruno. He now returns with director Larry Charles for The Dictator. The film is definitely in the same vein as Cohen’s other films. However, it is slightly different because the movie actually tries to go for a story rather than follow Cohen and Charle’s normal mockumentary approach.
The Dictator follows the story of an oppression-loving ruler named Aladeen, who hails from the fictional country of Wadiya in Northern Africa. While planning to build nuclear weapons, Aladeen and his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) must travel to New York City in order to address the UN council–so that other countries do not militarily intervene. After a betrayal and a series of inconveniences, the dictator ends up receiving help from both an old friend and an eco-loving woman named Zoey (Anna Faris).
Cohen at the top of his game provides comedic dynamite. His mix of sharp satire and ridiculous raunchiness always provides varied types of laughs, and he takes stabs at seemingly every “type” imaginable in his films. If you’ve seen a Cohen-driven film before, you know what you’re getting in for. If not, The Dictator will likely surprise (or anger) you in some form or another. It really boils down to whether one likes Cohen or not in determining if they will derive any pleasure from The Dictator.
I personally find the actor to be an audacious and hilarious man, so I am more willing to forgive his lesser moments in his films. For instance, I loved Borat but disliked a lot of Bruno. However, I still admired the boldness he put into making Bruno and had a few chuckles with it here and there.
The Dictator is between those two films for me. It isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as Borat, but it also isn’t as disgusting as Bruno. In the end, it is really a mixed bag of hits and misses, but those hits outweigh those misses in strength when they do come. My favorite scenes involve the learning of masturbation and the giving of a birth; Cohen also lets it rip when it comes to the final speech in the film. I also enjoyed a lot of the soundtrack, which included some parodies of Dr. Dre and R.E.M. songs.
Though Cohen is a comic genius, he doesn’t really let the other actors shine in the film. Faris and Kingsley’s talents are pretty much wasted, and John C. Reilly is ineffective in a cameo. Jason Mantzoukas (as the friend who helps Aladeen) does have a few amusing moments, but Cohen always outshines him in some form or another. Also, the story here is really unnecessary and probably would have worked better in a thirty-minute sketch. When Cohen actually tries to make us care about his and Faris’ relationship, it is laughable in a bad sense.
I was disappointed in The Dictator at times, but I laughed and was entertained enough to forgive it of some of its uneven and flawed results. Cohen and Charles remain a fitting comedic team, but I hope the two bring their skills to a new area soon, as this type of approach may not always work and could become tiresome. For the time being, though, it still worked for me. The Dictator is a hilarious ride for Cohen devotees.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.