Review: THE DICTATOR

By Laurie Coker

Rating: D+/C-

Those who know me, know it typically takes really, really smart films (even when riddle with potty humor), to entertain me. I purposely skipped Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat and Brüno because I find it difficult to tolerate Cohen’s crassness. And when I finally did see them on DVD, I never actually made it to the end of the second one. My ex-husband and I went to see Cohen’s newest film The Dictator, because he L-O-V-E-S Cohen’s kind of humor. I had to see the film and he wanted to see it. While I didn’t absolutely hate, The Dictator – because it does have a few (and very far between) funny moments and one over-the-top,  spot-on monologue (satirizing America) -I can’t say I liked it either. My guest did.

Cohen plays General Admiral Aladeen/Efawadh a tyrant who, although not a complete idiot, does some pretty idiotic things. Actually, Cohen plays him as an egomaniacal and moronic fool and when the film opens, he is kidnapped and taken away from his beloved country.  For the crux of the film, Aladeen is lost in NYC, because his main advisor Tamir (Ben Kingsley), a man who wants control, has replaced him with an even more imbecilic body double. Once in NYC, Aladeen happens upon Zoey, (Anna Faris), who detests the likes of Aladeen and who runs an Earthy, organic vegan grocery, where she puts Aladeen (who she knows as Alison) to work, which give us the romantic twist to the tale. In his efforts to regain his position and to out his top advisor, Aladeen teams up with a former Wadiyan nuclear scientist (Jason Mantzoukas) to reclaim his rightful place as head of state. What little laugher there was from me, came mainly when Mantzoukas and Cohen do what they do best – tasteless, insensitive banter.

As noted, I simply don’t enjoy Cohen’s kind of degrading, nasty, tasteless humor. I find little wit in the debasing of others and personal slurs for the sake of being (supposedly) funny.  I don’t need to see man parts or hairy-girl armpits, and find direct attacks on race, creed, gender and the like, unnecessary and frankly, unfunny. I did however, as I mentioned, truly appreciate one pointed attack on the state of the United States particularly interesting and sadly, quite truthful.

For the most part the big picture is far more entertaining than the forced romantic aspect of the film, which while somewhat instrumental to the final outcome, fails to deliver much throughout. We are suppose to see Zoey as the straight man to Aladeen, but Faris is too inherently adorable and sweet to effectively be the constant brunt of tacky jokes – like when Aladeen  calls her mannish/boyish and overweight and makes fun of her booblessness and short hair cut. Faris seems out of her element here – typically witty, here she feels like part of the dressing and not the heart of the film.

I hate to say it, but I wanted to dislike the R-rated The Dictator before I entered the screening, so it hardly had a chance to please. Regardless, I did try to find some good things in it and I did a few, but very few things to praise. Faris’s comic talent is wasted and Cohen, as is typical, goes over the top. I did hear bouts of laughter throughout, but little from me. Much of the humor relies on raunchiness and not on talent or wit, so I frowned more than smiled. I am placing a D+/C- in my grade book. I am not a fan.

 

 

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