Movie Review: “The Dictator”: Offensively Hilarious

Written by David Greenberg May 21, 2012

What is it that makes Sacha Baron Cohen’s portrayal of Aladeen, the North African, megalomaniacal strongman in his latest film, “The Dictator,” so appealing?  Well, there are a number of answers to this question.  It could be his unabashed sexist quips that are peppered throughout the film.  Or, it could be his shameless parody of the current political climate.  No matter how you stack it, Cohen’s guiltless ability to “go there” is what makes “The Dictator” so outrageously hilarious.

Waaaaay over the top

“The Dictator” is not for everyone.  In fact, if you have a weak stomach for depraved, racist, and sexist humor that relishes in the fact that it has broken the threshold of “too far,” then avoid “The Dictator” at all costs.  In fact, if this type of humor is not your style, you would be doing Sacha Baron Cohen a favor by not screening the film because in your anger at his jokes, you may decide to sue Cohen for blasphemy (not that he is not used to law suits by now).  However, if you can appreciate the political undertones of Cohen’s over-the-top humor and were a fan of his earlier works such as “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” and “Bruno” you may be in for a refreshing surprise.

 A different style for Cohen

Baron Cohen’s story about a North African dictator who travels to New York in order to speak in front of the U.N. contains a cast of established Hollywood actors.  Ben Kingsley plays Aladeen’s brother, Tamir who attempts to seize power from Aladeen.  To hatch his plot, Tamir contracts Aladeen’s death and uses a  dim-witted body double of Aladeen to give a speech at the U.N.  This speech is supposed to announce and call for the signing of a new constitution for the fictional country of Wadiya that would give Tamir absolute power and much wealth. John C. Reilly plays a CIAesque operative who is hired by Tamir to torture and kill Aladeen but who only succeeds at cutting off his beard and rendering him unrecognizable.  Anna Faris plays the role of a “new age” earthy-type who mistakes Aladeen for a political refugee and hires him to work at her earth friendly foodstuffs store.

Gauge your expectations

If you are expecting to see a film of the nature of the Borat and Bruno characters, you will be disappointed.  Cohen does not repeat his mockumentary streak as seen in Borat and Bruno, but instead, enters into the realm of scripted comedy.  Although Borat was an original type of a cultural parody, it was time for Cohen to write a story and capitalize on a more intellectual (although I don’t know if this is what I would call it) type of humor rather than a purely shock-based type of humor.

Politically Prevalent

Baron Cohen’s ability to hilariously capture the essence of the Middle-Eastern political climate is what makes “The Dictator” so un-apologetically funny.  Although some of the jokes did fall flat, it is evident that Cohen’s portrayal of Aladeen is derived from the likes of recent dictators such as Moammar Gadhafi and Kim Jong Il.  Is the humor of “The Dictator” depraved? Yes. Is it a film replete with sexism? Yes.  Is the film gross? Yes.  But in the end, it is precisely Sacha Baron Cohen’s cocktail of politics, humor, and shock that makes “The Dictator” a worthwhile film to see.

My Rating: 6.5/10



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