When not guiding the viewer through a sequence in which we explore the depths of an airy vagina, raping and assassinating individuals for sport, or making derogatory stereotypes, The Dictator occasionally manages to make insightful commentary on our governments misguided notion of “democracy”. But really, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest juvenile affair offers more outrageous humor than satirization of our diplomacy.
Thankfully, Larry Charles’ third pairing with Cohen is more Borat than Bruno – which for anyone who has seen both mockumentaries understands the importance of such a comparison.
In the film Cohen plays Aladeen, an oppressive dictator of the North African Republic of Wadiya. However, with ideals and culture rapidly evolving, the United Nations and the people of this restrained Republic call for a democracy.
This propels our spineless, inexplicably idiotic leader into New York City, in which he is to appear in front of the UN to discuss the future of his land. Things go terribly awry for Aladeen during his first night in America. Cutting some unnecessary exposition, spoilers, and motives from the equation, our protagonist is left on the street after nearly escaping a near death experience.
Homeless, clueless, and beardless, there isn’t a soul in the city who can initially recognize Aladeen. Searching for a way to save his land from freedom and prosperity, Aladeen – by chance – meets Zoey (Anna Faris), a feminine literature major who’s hairy, vegan and completely opposed to tyranny. The two strike a relationship. From that point forward The Dictator merely circles through their romance and Aladeen’s perpetual quest for regaining power.
Once again, Cohen does what he knows best: making a filthy film with no boundaries or substance, while keeping the narrative as light as possible. This bonafide comedy star has made a name for himself by acting like a socially ignorant, politically incorrect numskull. And just like his past efforts, some bits work, some don’t.
But in making a film that defies barriers we end up receiving a product without any stakes. Aladeen breaks laws without consequences, talks down to people without getting taught lessons, and as a result his character doesn’t progress by the conclusion, but regress.
It’s also worth mentioning that while Larry Charles (of Seinfeld fame) may be attempting to push a statement on contemporary capitalism, it’s done so with such little subtlety that it becomes a self-aware diatribe.
Just pointing out a few idiosyncrasies in a system isn’t enough to drive home a potential point: even if that concept is trying to tell us our free wielding use of democracy needs reform.
Still, while The Dictator occasionally wanes into biting commentary, it’s mostly another platform for Cohen to do his fish-out-of-water shtick. Which, surprisingly, is an act that still has some lively energy and astonishingly ridiculous sequences.
The Dictator isn’t on the same plateau as Borat, but for a reckless comedy that insists on shocking audiences with the inappropriate and unexpected, it gets the job done.
I admit, it’s wrong. It’s terribly, terribly wrong, morally wrong … vile even. But I must hand it to Sacha Baron Cohen yet again. The Dictator had me laughing, even when I knew deep down that I shouldn’t be. And for each laugh, came a well-deserved cringe or an adverting of the eyes.
Then again, isn’t that Cohen’s objective?
2.5 out of 4 stars
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