Movie Review: The Dictator

By Stephen Rebello

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Sacha Baron Cohen's latest role as a satirical dictator makes for a hilariously offensive comedy.


Director: Larry Charles MPAA Rating: R Studio: Paramount Pictures

Signs reading “Please remove the stick from your posterior before entering the theater” ought to be posted at showings of Sacha Baron Cohen’s often hilariously offensive comedy, The Dictator. 

Gone is the actor/writer/director’s faux-documentary "gotcha!" style moviemaking and, along with it, heroes Borat and Bruno.  In their place is his newest creation, oil-rich Arab totalitarian monster Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen of Wadiya, who arrives on screen violent, vainly bearded, egotistical, sexist, cheerfully conscience-free, armed with rogue nukes – and more or less scripted.  The basic premise of the screenplay (credited to Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer) sends the dictator to New York at the insistence of his trusted chief advisor and uncle (Ben Kingsley), where he defiantly flaunts his anti-democracy stance and his habit of grinding his populace under his boot heel until he gets called on the carpet by the U.N. over his burgeoning secret nuke arsenal.  After escaping kidnapping and torture (by John C. Reilly), he meets and falls for a good-hearted, hippy-dippy Brooklyn health food store owner (Anna Faris), who bears the brunt of jokes comparing her to a “lesbian hobbit” and a chubby Justin Bieber.  The love of a good, progressive woman eventually changes the dictator, sort of, but only after Cohen launches full-frontal comedic assaults on some of America’s most sacred cows, such as 9/11, the Munich Olympics massacre, the War on Terror and exactly how un-free the so-called land of the free has become.  When things really get humming, some of Cohen's humor takes deadly satiric aim.  

But even when the Larry Charles-directed movie rambles and relies on silly gross-out stuff, Cohen is in very good form: his and Jason Mantzoukas' comic byplay is fantastic, Faris is nothing if not up for a good time and some of the many cameos (especially one from Megan Fox) are great fun.  It may not be a patch on Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (an obvious source of inspiration) but The Dictator is often savagely comic and at times, howlingly funny. 

 


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