Comedy Movies, by Mike Richardson, 19 August 2012

Director: Larry Charles

Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris and Ben Kingsley

Country: USA

Runtime: 83 min

Release Date:

Language: English

The man behind Ali G, Borat and Brüno sets his sights on the more mature target of “despotism”, but with equally childlike humour in The Dictator. It seems that Baron Cohen is now too widely-recognized to go undercover as a white rapper or Kazakhstanian or fashionista reporter to lampoon the public so after a couple of “serious” roles (Hugo and Sweeney Todd) he unleashes another creation in a (mostly) scripted “straight” story of a dictator, who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.

The Dictator

The Dictator

The Dictator, or to give him his full moniker (His Most Excellent Supreme Excellency) Admiral General Hafez Aladeen is arguably the world’s number 1 dictator (after the Arab Spring and the passing of Kim Jong Ill) with bad behaviour that would impress even the late, great dictator Colonel Gadhafi himself. Aladeen’s kingdom is his own private playground / funfair, set to cater to each and every childlike whim. For forty years, the North African Republic of Wadiya (hard to find on any map) has seen Aladeen give free reign to his childish, lecherous, anti-western manias but has suddenly been thrust into the political spoiltight as it is working on developing weapons grade nuclear weapons.

Aladeen is required to head to America and deliver a speech to prevent a United Nations-sponsored coup d’état. The whys, hows and wherefores of the narrative come a very poor second to comedy and the Machiavlian political machinations of Uncle Tamir (Sir Ben Kinglsley) and Aladeen’s romance with Zoe (Anna Faris (a fair trade grocery shop’s feminist manageress)) are almost a distraction to the gags (and the “message”). Most of the humour in The Dictator springs from Aladeen’s gleeful awfulness, and almost every line in the script is a punchline (of varying quantity).

There’s nothing particularly prophetic in the Dictator, but Baron Cohen plays to his strengths with just enough social comment to give the “right-ons” an excuse to laugh their fair-trade socks off and plenty of shameless anti-social and politically incorrect gags to keep the common man happy. SBC continued his habit of promoting his films in character, a shtick that is fast running out of charm, but kudos to the performer, who turned up to the Oscars in full dictator regalia, flanked by his top heavy female bodyguards and “accidently” emptied an urn containing the ashes of Kim Jong-Il over TV host Ryan Seacrest at the 84th Academy Awards before being escorted off the red carpet. The Republic of Wadiya’s most benign and virile ruler responded in characteristic fashion by describe the Oscars as “the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Zionists”.

The Dictator will sit happily in a boxed set with Ali G, Borat and Bruno but would look as out of place as (His Supreme Excellency) Admiral General Hafez Aladeen, sat next to Anglea Merkel at a G8 Summit, compared to Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 comedy the Great Dictator. For now at least Sacha Baron Cohen will be more famous for his “in character” publicity stunts than for his actual cinematic output.

The Dictator Trailer

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