The Dictator, 2012, USA
Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) is the ruthless dictator of the fictional North African country of Wadiya. His advisor, his Uncle Tahir (Ben Kingsley) attempts to keep him in line, but Aladeen is childish, brutish, and terribly prejudiced against pretty much everyone. Assassination attempts are thwarted through the use of body doubles. When Aladeen and Tahir travel to the United States to give a speech at the UN, Tahir hires a hitman to kill Aladeen. The assassination attempt fails, but Aladeen loses his beloved beard, and is unrecognizable. Stuck in the United States and unable to prove who he is, he begins to work at the organic food co-op owned by Zoey (Anna Faris).
The film is a bit uneven. At times it is uproariously funny (the first 20 minutes or so are particularly good), but there are parts of the movie that are really crude and unfunny. There was a scene where a baby was being delivered that was played for laughs, but it was so graphic that I found myself cringing through the whole thing.
At only 83 minutes long, this unevenness does hurt the film. When it’s funny, it is a brilliant film, but when the jokes fall flat, it is near unwatchable.
Like Borat and Brüno, The Dictator is satire. It’s absolutely scathing, and if you do not understand what Cohen is doing with the jokes, then you are likely to be offended by many of them. Towards the end of the film, Aladeen gives a political speech that is so funny and brilliantly points out the failings of American politicians.
I did not end up seeing this film in theatres because I absolutely loathed Brüno. I enjoyed this one quite a bit more, though. Cohen’s comedy will always push the envelope, but he’s very good at making us think. You’ll be left thinking about why, precisely you laughed at some of the jokes, which will, hopefully make you think about some of the things going on in this world.
There are a number of celebrity cameos in The Dictator – some of them are credited but many of them aren’t. I’m not going to name any of them here because discovering them for yourself is part of the fun of the movie. The Dictator is available on Netflix.