The Dictator Review By Joey

The Dictator is a scripted comedy about Haffaz Aladeen, the out of control leader of Wadiya, a made up country near Sudan that is rich in oil. Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo, Bruno) became world famous after the big screen debut of his character, Borat Sagdiyev, a racist and sexist broadcaster from Kazakhstan. In The Dictator, Baron Cohen recycles everything that made Borat a success, minus the unsuspecting victims who thought Mr. Sagdiyev was a real journalist, and manages to make a movie that is just as funny, offensive, and full of social commentary.

When Aladeen is summoned by the United Nations to address their concerns about Wadiya’s nuclear program, Aladeen’s top aide (Ben Kingsley, Gandhi) comes up with a plan to have him assassinated and replaced with an easily manipulated and imbecilic double in order to make a fortune from selling the rights to Wadiya’s oil reserves. After surviving the botched assassination attempt, the now powerless and unrecognizable Aladeen scrambles to get his old life back while also trying to survive in New York City.

Along the way, Aladeen meets Zoey, the frumpy manager of an organic grocery store who puts the Earth first in everything she does. Anna Faris plays Zoey in that clueless way that she pioneered back in her Scary Movie days. Faris does nothing new with her character but Baron Cohen plays off her quite well. She is the straight man in their comedy duo who is constantly setting him up for the next butt-puckeringly shocking line.

The other main character in Aladeen’s adventure through New York City is Nadal, Wadiya’s former head of the nuclear program who was supposedly beheaded years ago. Jason Mantzoukas (FX’s The League) is a master at improv and some of the funniest scenes are the ones where he and Baron Cohen are simply bickering back and forth. The Dictator will no doubt make Mantzoukas a hot commodity for big Hollywood comedies to come.

The supporting cast is made up of people who are genuinely funny in real life and who true fans of comedy will appreciate. Actors and writers from shows like SNL, The Daily Show, Children’s Hospital, Delocated, and Parks & Recreation all come together to elevate this movie above the trite Sandler-esque fare that usually populates the summer comedy arena. There are even a few comedy legends who pop in for walk on roles, which may seem like a waste, but when you think about the fact that director Larry Charles produced shows like Seinfeld, Entourage, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, it is easy to understand why no one would refuse the chance to work with him.

The film is barely 80 minutes but not a single one is wasted. The jokes are delivered like ammo from a machine-gun which means that even if only 80% of the jokes land, audiences should still feel like their insides have been decimated from laughing so hard. The logic of all the characters is always asinine, but if that’s what it takes to see a mind-bogglingly ridiculous scenario played out for the sake of comedy, then I am all for it.

After 21 Jumpstreet, The Dictator is the funniest movie of the year but there is no telling if it will be a success. It seemed that after Bruno, a large percentage of people were not as impressed by Baron Cohen’s brand of comedy. Friends of mine said that it wasn’t as funny as Borat, but of course humor is completely subjective. The SNL sketch turned feature film, Macgruber, was also an R-rated comedy about terrorists that I thought was one of the funniest movies of 2010, but it turned out to be a financial failure. What may save The Dictator though, is that Baron Cohen is a master of publicity. Maybe if Will Forte had thrown ashes on Ryan Seacrest at The Oscars, we would be looking forward to Macgruber 2: Cunth Harder this June.

Joseph Vosevich 5.16.12

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