Published May 16, 2012Dropping the pretence of catching people off-guard in real situations, Sacha Baron Cohen's latest hyperbolic character offshoot of Ali G's noted superlative impropriety posits him as the autocratic leader of a fictional country named Wadiya. It's a rebound of sorts from the disappointing Bruno, having more hits than misses on the laughs front, even if its conventional narrative is mostly incoherent given the modified template of a traditional film rather than the manipulated shock of his social mockumentaries.
Initially, The Dictator struggles to find its footing, opening with General Aladeen (Cohen) routinely assassinating anyone that disagrees with him and propositioning various celebrities (Megan Fox, Lindsay Lohan, Ellen DeGeneres). Aside from an inappropriate gag about a Wii Munich Olympics gag, this send up of villainous leaders like Saddam Hussein and Kim-Jong Il seems to be going nowhere fast.
Fortunately, when Aladeen's right hand man (Ben Kingsley) convinces him to go over to America, exchanging the tyrant with an exceptionally ignorant farmer body double in a bid to switch their dictatorship to a democracy, this oft-crude comedy finds its footing. Whether it's Aladeen's body double peeing in a pitcher and pouring it on Israeli delegates or Aladeen insulting the vegan feminist archetype, Zoe (Anna Faris), that takes him in when he's left on the streets of America post-switcheroo, the movie hits the mark.
There's a decent mixture of political and scatological humour, and varying degrees of witty commentary about the many ways America is similar to a dictatorship, with scenes of Aladeen defecating on a random pedestrian while trying to lose weight in a pinch while on a high wire. It ensures that the hit-and-miss nature of the comedy at least reaches different demographics and education brackets.
Beyond this, the greatest thing about Cohen's latest work is how casual it is with offending various social mores. In responding to Zoe's claim of not being racist because she hasn't dated a white man since college, Aladeen states, "Yes, the darker races tend to be less choosy." He also mocks her extensive education, stating, "I like it when women get an education. It's like seeing a monkey on roller skates. They have no idea what's going on, but we find it really entertaining."
Inevitably, for all of these jokes that find their mark, there are many set-ups that fall flat, but then they discuss putting on their raping shoes or decapitate a corpse and use the head as a hand puppet and all is well in the world. (Paramount)