The creator of Ali G, Brüno, and Borat is back! Sacha Baron Cohen is now Admiral General Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya in The Dictator from Paramount Pictures. Is this on par with Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler caricature in The Great Dictator? Or is it just another crude stereotype trying to squeeze a little more life out of the rampant success of Borat?
Young Aladeen became supreme leader of the African country of Wadiya at the age of seven. Since then, he has ruled his kingdom with an iron fist. Anyone who disobeys him is tortured or killed. Over the years, he has made friends with fellow leaders such as Kim Jong-il and Moammar Gadhafi. He has also made a lot of enemies within the United Nations over his country’s nuclear weapons program. He is ordered by the UN to speak to the delegation or military action will be enforced. So General Aladeen decides it is best for his Kingdom to come to America.
But conspirators within the regime want Aladeen taken out. So an assassin is hired to kidnap, torture, and eventually kill the supreme leader. Aladeen outwits the would be assassin and escapes, but not without losing his signature beard. General Aladeen races to the UN in order to give his speech, but no one believes he is who he is. A riot breaks out and a young shop owner and activist named Zoe helps him out and gives him a job. It is now up to Aladeen to infiltrate the UN and ensure democracy is never established in the county he has oppressed.
I am a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen. I liked Da Ali G Show and I thought Borat was an absolute brilliant commentary on American prejudice. So when I heard he was making a movie about a ruthless leader of an oppressed country, I had high expectations of what the movie would be. I was almost imagining a parody of a made up dictator, the way the Kim Jong-il was parodied by the South Park guys in Team America: World Police or by Bobby Lee on Mad TV. To my disappointment, The Dictator turned out to just be a series of in your face raunchy jokes ran together with a forgettable story. Now don’t get me wrong, I love crude dick and fart jokes, but Sacha Baron Cohen seemed to not have any real imagination with his character. General Aladeen was nothing more than a ruthless oppressor just looking for a cuddle partner.
The main problem with The Dictator is the absolutely forgettable story. The film started strong with the origin story of General Aladeen growing up, obtaining power, and even holding a sporting even in his honor. Real life news clips of Barack Obama and other leaders were edited in to give an almost documentary feeling. My interest was piqued.
But when Aladeen escapes his kidnappers in America, the whole plot falls apart as did my interest. Jokes were borderline funny that I could not help but laugh at the sheer stupidity. And as the movie went on, it was almost pity laughter from myself and fellow audience members. There were indeed some moments that were genuinely funny, but those were few and far between. By the time Sacha Baron Cohen delivers what the film’s real agenda and social commentary is all about, its too-little-too-late to redeem the film.
I genuinely liked the character of The Dictator. I admire how Sacha Baron Cohen completely becomes his characters on and off screen. It adds to the validity of the comedy. But just like how a magician never does the same trick twice, the effect of completely portraying the character ended with Borat. That’s what made Borat even more powerful: you knew it was just a character, but because it was a mockumentary, it was a better attempt of suspending disbelief. What is sad it that Cohen is actually a really good actor, evident in work in Hugo.
The rest of cast played bit parts or appeared as brief cameos. Ben Kingsley’s talents were wasted in this film playing as the General’s second in command. .Anna Ferris played Zoey, the activist shop keeper. Just like a lot of her previous films, I just found her and her voice annoying. The other main character was an Aladeen supporter portrayed by Jason Mantzoukas. He was almost the straight man to Cohen. I don’t want to give away any other of the cameos, but they must have owed some big favors to be in the film.
The Dictator is really a one trick pony, that starts the race strong, but breaks its leg before reaching the finish line. I feel the movie should have more imagination. But people are going to see this film out of curiosity due to the Academy Awards stunt on the red carpet and the high publicity tour Sacha Baron Cohen is embarking on all over the world to promote the movie. To be honest, the fake website about the make believe country of Wadiya has more creativity and background story that the actual film. With the blockbuster season already started for the year, it’s hard to recommend rushing out to theaters to see The Dictator. I’d say wait and spend a dollar at Red Box in a few months with it’s released on home video. Do yourself a favor, save your money and just watch the trailer below. You’ll thank me later.
In Theaters: May 16, 2012
Runtime: 83 min
Rating: R (for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images)
Director: Larry Charles
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Jason Mantzoukas, Ben Kingsley, Megan Fox, John C. Reilly, and Anna Faris
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Official Site: http://www.republicofwadiya.com/
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