Review: THE DICTATOR

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (out of 4 Stars)

People either love or loathe Sacha Baron Cohen’s brand of comedy.  I happen to love most of his work.  Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan introduced me to his comedy which involved interactions with unsuspecting real people where he’d make people uncomfortable with his supposed cultural differences and even setting up confrontational situations.  These scenarios which lampooned American pop culture, racism, sexism, and Anti Semitism make for some brilliant comedic moments.  Not since Andy Kaufman has a comic performer blurred the line between reality and fiction and done so with such skill and dedication.  I, however, found his follow-up film Bruno quite disappointing and often disturbing. Cohen upped the shock and as a result, increased the schlock.  

In this latest movie, The Dictator, I must say I enjoyed several of the jokes.  This time the interaction with real people is absent, but Cohen’s style of controversial comedy remains.  Cohen portrays Aladeen, the oppressive leader of Wadiya.  Aladeen travels to the United States to address the U.N. regarding his alleged nuclear weapons program.  When forces within his own administration conspire to replace him an impostor who will turn the Wadiyan government into a democracy, Aladeen must fight back with all of his will and heart to maintain his oppressive dictatorship.  Aladeen works with his former employee Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) and new found friend Zoe (Anna Farris) to stop the impostor dictator from dismantling his beloved reign of terror.

 Directed by Larry Charles (Borat, Seinfeld) and written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg (also of Seinfeld fame), David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer, The Dictator has a mix of both smartly written satire as well as silly dumb humor.  Not all of the jokes made me laugh, but enough did for me to enjoy the film overall.  This movie will not appeal to people who absolutely hate Cohen’s brand of humor.  People who do like his comedy will probably enjoy this film.  I have to admit that I missed the interactions with real people, but I appreciate that the filmmakers attempted to do something different this time, opting for completely fictional scenes.

 Cohen’s performance without a doubt never falters.  The movie also features Ben Kingsley as Aladeen’s right hand man Tamir, Comic Bobby Lee as Mr. Lao, and cameos by John C. Reilly, Chris Parnell, Kevin Corrigan, Fred Armisen, Kathryn Hahn, among others.  I really have nothing bad to say about the cast.  The show belongs to Cohen and he delivers a fine performance.  As I previously stated, not all of the jokes hit, but enough do to earn a favorable rating from me.

 Now, if someone asks me if I think they should pay full price to see this movie, I would have to answer no.  I’d recommend this film as a rental, unless one absolutely wants to see it on the big screen.  If that’s the case, save some money and catch a matinee.  Honestly, nothing about this film warrants spending the money to watch it in a theater. It makes for an entertaining 83 minutes, especially for fans of Sacha Baron Cohen.  If not a fan of Cohen, it would be best to avoid it.

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