The Dictator

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.

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16 Responses to “The Dictator”

  1. atothewr Says:

    I’m happy to say I have stayed away from anything he has done. My hats off to you for sitting through this one. I could never do it. Great review.

  2. I’m not a huge fan of Baron Cohen. I haven’t seen him in his classic Borat, and I’ve only seen two of his works, I think. I hated him in Hugo and loved him in Talladega Nights. This trailer made me guffaw so hard when I saw it at Mission: Impossible. But it also made me feel like a racist. I’m sure the rest of the theater felt the same way. I’ll try to see it, just for a good laugh, but it’s unlikely that I’ll catch it in theaters. I was on the fence before, but now I’m afraid I might waste my money and time. Great review, as usual.

  3. Good review Mark. You hit the nail right on the head with this one.

  4. I didn’t love it, nor did I hate it. I thought it was a funny flick but I definitely don’t think it’s any better than Borat, or even Bruno for that matter. Just Sacha Baron Cohen pretty much doing what he does best: offend the hell out of everybody. Good review.

  5. sanclementejedi Says:

    I am sad to hear that this is not a very good film. However, your review lists a lot of the same issues I have read elsewhere. Looks like I will be taking a pass on this one. Hope he gets back to what he does best in his next film.

    • It currently has a “fresh” rating on rottentomatoes (barely). As I was writing my review, I was thinking I might give it 3 stars, but when I re-read my review, I realized it was more negative than positive and had to go lower.

      • sanclementejedi Says:

        Mark in general I don’t think RT and IMDB are critical enough with their ratings. Not that they are as bad as EW but still pretty bad. lol

  6. “It’s not an Adam Sandler movie, but it’s pretty darn close.”

    Yikes!
    I really thought this was going to be very good. Borat was so good, hysterically funny. Baron Cohen did start to go downhill with Bruno, though. So this is just another step in that direction.

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