Synopsis: The heroic story of a North African dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.
Release Date: May 16, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
In 2006 the world was taken over by a character named Borat, created by Sacha Baron Cohen, in the film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Audiences worldwide laughed themselves silly, and continue to do so on home media, especially with the special features; the deleted scene in the super market featuring cheese is not to be missed. In 2009 Cohen created another character, featured in a film of the same name, Bruno. A misunderstood and somewhat hated character the success of Bruno was not to be, but that did not stop Sacha Baron Cohen from continuing his penchant for creating characters in movies that defy the conventional comedy genre laws. Cohen likes to push the limits of what is appropriate, a fact made more than clear with his newest film The Dictator.
The Dictator begins with a still shot of Kim Jong-il, the late supreme leader of North Korea, and a title of “In Loving Memory” attached to the photograph. The stage is immediately set for what is to come with The Dictator, a film laced with political satire and outrageous comedy all centered around the dictator in question, one Admiral General Aladeen; or as he states his full title to be, “Admiral General Aladeen, Supreme Leader, Chief Ophthalmologist, Invincible, All Triumphant, Beloved Oppressor of the People of Wadiya…and excellent swimmer, including butterfly. I have 118 PhDs, and a diploma in spray tanning from the Qatar Community College.” Sacha Baron Cohen’s newest character is one who wants nothing more than to continue oppressing the people he rules in the North African Nation of Wadiya, and he is not ashamed to make his feelings known. He also craves affection and to be loved, even if it is with someone he has paid to have intercourse with him–in this case Megan Fox, among other celebrities. Hated by the rest of the world, wanted for war crimes, and perpetually seen as a less-than capable ruler, Aladeen is a man to despise. But despising him is impossible, as it is far too much fun to laugh at him, with him, and in spite of him during The Dictator.
In a departure from Borat and Bruno, The Dictator is a stand-alone narrative feature, not a faux documentary. Aladeen is not playing a prank on anyone in the film, or disguising himself in order to catch people off-guard; you will not find Paula Abdul making an appearance. You will still see plenty of celebrities, or instances where their names are dropped. This time it is always as part of the whorish nature of celebrity and thirst for money. Cohen knows no limits when it comes to commenting on the state of celebrity in our culture and the celebrities featured, Megan Fox and Edward Norton to name but two, play right along with the joke.
The story itself in The Dictator centers around Aladeen being betrayed by his loyal confidante Tamir (Ben Kingsley) and finding himself replaced by a double of himself, also played by Sacha Baron Cohen. Cast out of his life as the dictator he is on the streets of New York trying to hatch a plan to get his throne back before Tamir gets his way and turns Wadiya into a democratic nation so he can sell the rights to the oil fields. Aladeen finds help on his mission in the unlikeliest of places, a restaurant owned, operated, and attended by those who hate Aladeen, located in Little Wadiya, New York City. His ex-nuclear scientist Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) whom Aladeen sentenced to death (but mysteriously is still alive), who now works at the Apple Store, wants to return to working in the plant and building a nuclear weapon. He and Aladeen team up to stop Tamir’s plan, creating a dynamic comedy team of errors every step of the way. Aladeen may run a nation but that does not mean he is the smartest man, a fact made evident time and again in The Dictator; again, just another way to comment on political leaders for the benefit of making the viewer laugh. There is one other element to the story, the romance that blooms between Aladeen and feminist/vegan/pro-everthing/green grocer/activist Zoey (Anna Faris). Her and Aladeen could not be any different, and the things he says to her, beginning with assuming she is a boy, are outrageous, inappropriate, sexist, and offensive–and every bit hilarious.
The Dictator is not a film that goes gently into the night by any means. It is an affront politically and socially, making fun of repeatedly systems of government, the state of the United States as it stands, the way we treat citizens and foreigners and the opposite sex, among a host of other things that are too long a list to mention. The film is hilarious, if not idiotic. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Aladeen is nearly perfect as a protagonist/antagonist, Faris charming if not distractible as Zoey, and Mantzoukas’s Nadal unforgettable for his comedic skills. The movie works as it stands, even with the repetitiveness of the subject matter and jokes that follow. There are times where things do not work as well, or the inclusion of a joke that falls flat–there have been far too many jokes about the herpes virus in other films, or scenes of defecating to last a lifetime at this point in film history. These small issues aside the movie will have you laughing, and laughing very loudly, if you share the ability to laugh at yourself, your country, and your people. If not, you may as well stay at home because The Dictator is gloriously offensive.
If you’re looking for politically correct, “appropriate” comedy, I urge you to see The Dictator for the mere fact that it may make you reconsider what is appropriate, and what needs to be made fun of because more often than not we take ourselves far too seriously, or live ignorantly, unaware of what is occurring politically and socially in our own country. The Dictator is a political satire, a sociological experiment in comedy, and just plain hilarious.
The predicament of reviewing the humor in a film like The Dictator is to use an example ruins the joke when you do indeed watch the film. No one wants to ruin all the fun of experiencing the over-reaching talent of Sacha Baron Cohen as Aladeen, his partner in crime Nadal, and the unrelenting patience of Faris’ Zoey. The following is a list of items that will come up in The Dictator. Should you see the promise of hilarity in these topics you will undoubtedly agree that The Dictator is hysterically funny: rape shoes, sub-saharans, racism in prisons, female guards with automatic weapons, Megan Fox, Tommy Lee, babies in garbage cans, hairy armpits, kicking an annoying child, playing a suicide bomber on the Wii, and a monkey on roller skates, to name but a few and far from all of some moments of humor. They are of course out of context and therefore it is impossible to grasp the comedic possibilities fully; although “rape shoes” definitely sets a tone.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Larry Charles
- Producer(s): Sacha Baron CohenAlec BergDavid MandelScott RudinJeff Schaffer
- Screenwriter(s): Sacha Baron CohenAlex BergDavid Mandel
- Story: Jeff Schaffer
- Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen (Admiral General Aladeen)Zoey (Anna Faris) Ben Kingsley (Tamir)Jason Mantzoukas (Nadal)
- Cinematographer: Lawrence Sher
- Production Designer(s): Victor Kempster
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By: Erran Baron Cohen
- Country Of Origin: USA