This Time, Sacha is Scripted
Film Review: "THE DICTATOR"
Published: Sunday, May 13, 2012
Updated: Sunday, May 13, 2012 13:05
The radically hilarious comedic genius Sacha Baron Cohen is at it again with his latest film “THE DICTATOR”. Featuring the same director as both “BRUNO” and “BORAT” in Larry Charles, this film is truly a shift in style for Sacha Baron Cohen (who also co-wrote the movie,) who is used to acting in improvised comedies after the breakout success of his (surprisingly scripted) “Da Ali G Show.” His improvisational skills are still here and possibly better than ever with “THE DICTATOR”, in which he acts as another larger than life character (something that he is surely known for doing) in a scripted film.
Made in loving memory of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, “THE DICTATOR” is the fictional story of a dictator named Admiral General Aladeen – played by Cohen. He misspeaks assiduously, talks into a 24 carat golden microphone when addressing large crowds, and has absolutely no respect for anyone but himself. What else would you expect from an obstinately sectarian North African dictator?
There is certainly no amity between Aladeen’s country of Wadiya and all of the others across the world. Is Wadiya a real place? No, it’s certainly a fictional country – but Admiral General Aladeen bears an uncanny resemblance to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed shortly after he was run out of office. Also making Wadiya similar to Iran, what everybody in the world wants answered immediately is does the Mad Dog of Wadiya in fact have nuclear weapons?
To address this question, Admiral General Aladeen comes to America and marches down the streets of New York City stylishly amidst remixed Jay-Z music with his right hand man Tamir. Tamir (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) sets up Aladeen to be killed prior to his trip to the Big Apple, only to see him live on astoundingly. He then realizes that he needs to create another plan to rid of the secretly hated dictator, and decides to trap him in America.
I’m not going to spoil for you how this is done, but I will say that perhaps the best cameo in the film comes from John C. Reilly. He is really the only person in the film who looks at the Wadiya General as a racist and in a less than respectful way. Among other cameos there is Megan Fox, who stars as herself. She plays a slutty ambassador for the United States who sleeps with dictators like Aladeen so that they keep peace with our beloved country.
In a scripted film featuring the improvised comedy of Cohen, much of the shock value would seem to be lost, but Cohen’s generally absurd statements are still as absurd as you could ever imagine them being - even if they are rehearsed. Aladeen is a character misplaced in the wrong situation: He is only good at giving orders and you realize he is completely incapable of taking them after starting to work for Anna Faris’ “lesbian hobbit” character who owns a hipster food store.
Larry Charles’ filmmaking is clearly not up to par with any good or even decent well-known comedic directors, regardless of how funny Cohen’s acting is. Charles’ editing is choppy, as most of the cuts throughout the film are not well thought out in the least bit. It’s a flashback-filled plot, in part due to the laziness of the director and his own inability to tie many of the shots in the film together with any kind of rhythmic flow.
One of the most pleasant aspects of the movie is its runtime. In mainstream Hollywood, there is truly nothing more annoying than a film that runs on for too long, and at sub-90-minutes, it moves at a good pace despite its lack of fluency. With this, the normally schmaltzy Cohen has brought us a political satire that certainly does not lack imbecility, but one that is still quite thought provoking and perhaps metaphorical of the relentlessly crude world relations we see on the news every day.
“THE DICTATOR” is a film full of moments where it take its jokes way too far, most importantly in a scene in a helicopter riding above New York City where Aladeen and his eventual sidekick that he previously expelled from Wadiya relentlessly babble on in their language about what sounds to Americans like a potential terrorist attack on famous New York City landmarks.
Insulting towards every religion, race, sex and all other stereotypes you can imagine, “THE DICTATOR” is something that will undoubtedly make you laugh as long as you don’t take Baron Cohen’s obscenities offensively. However offensive it is, though, it is seemingly much cleaner and nicer than Cohen and Charles’ earlier films like “BORAT” and “BRUNO” because it exploits the geopolitical instability of the Middle East and isn’t full of disgusting, shock-value based scenes.