Dictator Movie Review
Pretty damned funny, but if you are easily offended or super patriotic you might want to give it a miss.
I am indeed a Sasha Baron Cohen fan. I find his style of humor, while cringe inducing, to be both clever and mind expanding. Borat and Bruno were both genius, and I laugh my ass off whenever I watch Da Ali G Show. (None of the Above image courtesy of the funny Political T Shirts category)
Dictator, the third in his series of one word title movies, contains much of the same humor but also represents a significant divergence from his norm in that instead of injecting one of his established characters into situations with Americans he is now working from a script. On the one hand this provides a nice framework upon which to craft a decent movie rather than trying to put it together in the editing room, but on the other hand it somewhat restricts his movement and also has the issue of allowing the situations to get so wild that they take away from the appealing reality of the situations.
By that I mean in Borat and Bruno Cohen was dealing with real Americans Alan Funt style and therefore had to present situations that, while extreme and ridiculous, were also within the realm of possibility. If things had gotten too weird or out there the people he was working with would have figured it out and not kept acting naturally. For me that “real possibility” is what worked and made it so funny. In this movie the few times he went really off the rails (the birthing scene, for example) of reality gave the film the taint of surreality, which did not work.
That being said, those moments were few and far between, book casing long swaths of brilliant and non PC comedy. Sasha Baron Cohen (Bruno, Borat, Da Ali G Show) plays Admiral General Aladeen, the brutal and eccentric dictator of Wadiya, an oil rich country in Northern Africa. His interest include sleeping with Western celebrities, gold plated Hummers, and executing anyone who bothers him even a little (there is a really funny montage of people he has sent off to death for things like finding the prize in his box of cereal). He is pushing his nuclear weapons program and is about to get sanctioned by the United Nations. He travels to NYC to address the UN but while there is kidnapped by a racist redneck. He escapes only to discover he has been supplanted by his double under the thumb of his Prime Minister Tamir (Sir Ben Kingsley-Ghandi, Sexy Beast, Hugo). He takes refuge with local granola girl Zoey (Anna Faris-What’s Your Number, Scary Movie, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) who runs some kind of organic hippy store (let me say that for some reason I found her character here as the short haired, hairy hippy chick way more appealing than the fake seeming shallow blonde in What’s Your Number. Maybe it’s because I live in the Bay Area and meet more women like that). Some of the funniest scenes occur when Aladeen is telling her she is a boy and giving her grooming tips.
Anyway, he also hooks up with Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas-Baby Mama, I Hate Valentine’s Day, Please Give), his former head scientist whom he ordered executed for arguing with him about the shape of the nuclear missile. It turns out all the people he ordered killed were smuggled out of the country and now live in Little Wadiya. Nadal agrees to help him regain power. At that point if you have seen Coming to America and Trading Places you have seen the rest of the film. However, both of those movies are pretty good so I don’t think plumbing them for story points is a bad move. Comedic fish out of water stuff ensues. Some truly amazing comedy scenes happen, along with a few dead weights.
The stars. For the majority very funny. Two stars. Very non-PC and insulting to pretty much everyone. Two stars. The helicopter scene was some of the funniest stuff I have seen in years. One star. Sasha was typically brilliant. One star. All the supporting cast very well done, especially Jason Mantzoukas. I hope to see him in other stuff soon. One star. A really nice political message about the nature of a dictatorship towards the end had me laughing very hard. One star. The ending, which at first seemed to be ramping up to a dumb Disney-like happy ending, turned out to be well done and funny as well. One star. Overall a good movie. Two stars. Total: eleven stars.
The black holes. There were a couple scenes that felt really fake, not funny, and/or dragged on. One black hole. Some of the funniest lines from the trailers failed to make it into the actual film. One black hole. Some of the gross out humor was just not even necessary or well done. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of eight stars, a most excellent score. If you are a fan of humor or Sasha Baron Cohen then by all means see this film. Try to see it in a theater. Every dollar it gets means more chance of another great Cohen film soon. On the other hand, this is probably a terrible date movie. Gross humor, nasty sex, and just not the right style of film IMO. Your date might laugh and enjoy it, but she will most likely not be inclined to take off her clothes afterward if you know what I mean. Bathroom break? That’s easy. The scene where the woman gives birth. It’s five minutes of disgusting and disturbing humor just to deliver one joke. If you are looking for a second bathroom break the Aladeen masturbation scene definitely qualifies.
Thanks for reading. I have two movies in my sights for this weekend, Battleship and What to Expect When You Are Expecting. One looks like it is based on a really dumb concept, and the other is about ships. I kid, I kid. Seriously, they both look pretty suckstastic so let’s see who plays out. I’m also running a booth at the Big Wow Comicfest, a comic book convention in San Jose. If you are in the area stop by my booth and say hi. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu send an email if you have off topic questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to post here if you have a comment on this movie. Talk to you soon.