‘The Dictator’ Review

6.5/10

Film Pulse Score

Release Date: May 16, 2012
Director: Larry Charles
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 6.5/10

Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat, Bruno) in his most recent film, The Dictator, shows us why his genius, chameleon-like ability to both create and bring to life larger-than-life personalities that push the boundaries of comedy is unparalleled.  While tame in comparison to his other films, it will no doubt offend some and, yes, Baron Cohen’s penis makes an appearance.

The plot of The Dictator is that of a straight narrative.  There are no hidden cameras or pulling the wool over people’s eyes; this is a traditionally shot film. Baron Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen, the ruthless dictator of the fictional African country of the Republic of Wadiya, and after coming to America to speak to the United Nations, he finds himself beardless and alone in New York after being kidnapped and having an attempt made on his life. Similar to Dark Shadows, it’s a fish out of water story; only in this case, it isn’t a complete failure of a film.

The Dictator has its necessary potty-humor moments but is also chock full of dark, twisted gags and wide-eyed, cover-your-mouth moments of offensive and racist remarks; yet it manages to pull out a meaningful message about democracy at the end, which made for a nice palate cleanser after sitting through a barrage of Baron Cohen buffoonery.

Where the film shines is its nod to real-life dictators’ lavish lifestyles, oppressive policies, delusions of grandeur, and lust for power that Baron manages to capture beautifully all the way down to Admiral General Aladeen’s gold-plated everything and sociopathic tendencies. Who would have thought ordering people to death would be such a laugh riot?

Sir Ben Kingsley (Ghandi, Sexy Beast) plays “Tamir,” Aladeen’s right-hand henchman, and Anna Feris plays Aladeen’s feminist, tomboyish love interest, Zoe, both of whom serve as springboards for Cohen’s comedic acrobatics. While both actors do a passable job, their talents are underutilized and underdeveloped, as they seem to only be there to push the plot and provide a few punchlines.

A surprise nugget of fun was the soundtrack, mostly cover ballads re-worked in Aladeen’s native language, that were a treat by themselves. The film managed to work in several guest appearances by such comedians as “The Daily Show” correspondent Aasif Mandvi, Jon Glaser of “Delocated,” and even some sinfully delicious cameos by Edward Norton and Megan Fox.

While it assuredly will not be considered a classic like Borat, The Dictator still succeeds in accomplishing everything it sets out to do.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny, brash, offensive, and acts as a commentary on both fascist dictatorships and our own government. Like Borat, there’s enough here to please both the frat-boy crowd, as well as the more cultured cinephile.

Be sure to stay for the deleted scenes and outtakes during the credits, one of which was my favorite moment of the whole film.