By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers)
Admiral General Aladeen is the tyrannical ruler of the non-existant, but real sounding North African country of Wadiya. In a public speech he proudly proclaims that his nuclear program is just weeks away from enriching uranium for “peaceful” purposes (which include bombing Israel). When the U.N. threatens to bomb his country if he doesn’t personally appear before the security council, he and his entourage depart for New York, where his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) promptly has him abducted and replaced with a moronic body double to do his bidding.
What a moronic Body Double might look like…
After escaping and wandering the city, Aladeen falls for Zoey (Anna Faris) a feminazi who owns an environmentally friendly grocery store. After getting a job at the store, he begins to plot his return to power.
It’s good to be the king…
Sacha Baron Cohen’s up to his usual bag of tricks, although this time his comedy features none of the “Guerilla style” shock value that made Borat and Brüno so notorious. When he is bringing his A-Game, Cohen’s characters provide hilarious social commentary on ignorance and ethnocentric behavior. For what it’s worth, he occasionally hits these highs in The Dictator. One highlight of this is a moment where Aladeen and one of his followers have a loud discussion in their native language about their favorite automobile, the Porsche 9-11, while flying into New York… surrounded by paranoid tourists.
While not without moments of hilarity, The Dictator is a textbook example of the rule of diminishing returns. While they have different names and backstories, all three of his big-screen comedic characters are slight modifications of the same hateful bastard. And without attempting to present any significantly new or original approach to his comedy The Dictator just feels like more of the same, minus the endearing ignorance of Borat. This same problem plagued Brüno as well, but is even more pronounced this time around. This is putting Cohen dangerously close to assembly-line filmmaking.
A far better example
Aside from the problems of familiarity, the pacing of the comedy feels off. In an effort to provide exposition there are lengthy moments in the film that go without jokes. Aladeen, like Brüno and Borat before him, seem to work best when the story works as a bridge between humorous vignettes. This is because, they are less “characters” and more “caricatures”, lacking the depth that a dramatic story can support. Hugo proved that Sacha Cohen is capable of building complex and interesting characters, but this isn’t one of them.
For all of the promise that the film provides at delivering humor at the expense of evil dictators, fairly early on Aladeen is cast out of his role of power, which kind of makes the trailer campaign feel like false advertising. While some of these fish out of water moments work, they feel out of place in a movie that was being promoted as a parody of Megalomania.
This never happens in the movie, and should have.
A problematic, ultimately mediocre comedy, with enough great moments to make it a rental.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Aladeen’s name is used in place of a real word
Take a Drink: for every joke about Anna Faris’ mannishness
Drink a Shot: for every anti-Semitic joke, or whenever he refers to black people as “Sub-Saharans”