A North African dictator travels to the U.S. to ensure that democracy will never come to the Republic of Wadiya, his home country. Admiral General Aladeen is a character that promises something along the lines of Borat or Bruno. What made those films so effective was the subversiveness of it all. They were offensive to be sure, but they also had an intellectual point amongst the outrageousness. The Dictator is a departure. Gone are the real life “Candid Camera” style hijinks mixed throughout the scripted moments. This is a fully rehearsed comedy and a rather toothless one at that. Make no mistake, there are some hilarious bits. Aladeen creating an alias by looking at whatever signs happen to be around him is an amusing joke. But oddly none of the best humor has anything to do with the politics of a dictatorship. Sacha Baron Cohen’s pointed social commentary is largely missing. The script could have easily been re-written where he’s the CEO a large corporation and still kept the funniest gags intact. Making him a dictator feels arbitrary.
The Dictator is a strictly hit and miss affair. There’s nothing wrong with simply being a broad comedy. Mel Brooks made many that are considered classics today. It’s just that so many of the jokes just aren’t funny. John C. Reilly appears as a security guard for example in a thankless role that is utterly devoid of laughs. Also not helping matters is the fact that nobody behaves in a rational manner. The nuclear expert that Aladeen has ordered to be executed, happily agrees to be his political ally. A new age hippie feminist is inexplicably driven to help a man that openly mocks her. Dictator Aladeen’s halfhearted desire to stop democracy in his own country fluctuates back and forth on apparent whims. For the first time, Sacha Baron Cohen’s script feels pointless, even relying on bodily functions for humor. It’s not an Adam Sandler movie, but it’s pretty darn close.