The Dictator

Alright, before we get started, I’m going to lay my cards flat on the table…

I’m a big fan of Ali G Indahouse: The Movie.

BEFORE you get all judgey and turn your nose up at me – I was young, I watched it with my friends and we quoted it so often that it became a part of our vernacular. Have you ever experienced that phenomenon where you say a particular phrase so often, you forget where it came from? Well, I had that with “wha-eva” and Ali G. I was saying “wha-eva” so much that even my mother picked it up – and I’m sure there’s more where that came from. 

And have you even seen the Ali G movie? Have you even given it a chance?!

Sorry, I’m getting heated up over nothing here… because really, I haven’t watched that film in maybe a decade – and it probably has not aged well.

My point is that I think Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest work, The Dictator, falls into the same category as Ali G – not flawless, but doles out enough quotable jokes that will make it stick in the heart of some young fool somewhere.

In fact, I think I went out dancing with one the other night. And hell, I was quoting it back at her.

The Dictator is the story of the “last great dictator”, Admiral General Aladeen, who rules the fictional country of Wadiya. He is reckless and ridiculous – and maybe a little bit lonely. He is invited to New York to address the U.N. about his nuclear armament – but gets attacked while sleeping and loses his beard. Of course, without this he unrecognizable and a nasty uncle has found a dimwitted body double to take his place. So, in order to return to his former status and protect his country from democracy, he befriends a feminist vegan who owns a collective and hatches a plan. 

I must say, I do love a ridiculous premise. Nobody recognises him without his beard? Sure, I’ll accept that. And that’s the beauty of comedies like these – if you can accept something as blatantly absurd as that, you will be open to more ridiculous jokes. And that is what Cohen thrives on. And this is probably why I personally prefer his comedy in narrative format – it’s brings out his silliness rather than blatant attacks on real people. 

But The Dictator is very hit and miss. Some scenes are so hilarious and wonderful – but then others are just too much. But I found that to be the same with his previous movies as well – Cohen’s talent is being unafraid to throw absolutely everything at the wall and not worry about what sticks to who. The things I really didn’t enjoy, somebody else did. I laughed really hard at the way he delivered “I need clothes, little man.” to Anna Faris – but a lot of people aren’t even going to remember that line. It fluctuates madly between funny and not funny – the annoying thing is that it is different for every person.

Damn subjective humans.

Cohen and director Larry Charles do deserve props for a joke set-piece that I wasn’t on board with at all, but they persisted and I found myself laughing my head off. So, um, well-played.

So, overall it is a terribly inconsistent movie. Yes, it has moments that are awful, offensive and stereotypical – but there is enough gold humour to make you guffaw and also highlight the silliness of our society. It’s not a classic, but it’s worth it.

What to watch out for — the dimwitted body double’s expression at all times, especially the climax; the genius decision to have famous western pop hits covered in Wadiyan (which I think is a bastardised mixture of Arabic and Hebrew); and Ben Kingsley, ACADEMY AWARD WINNER, being a total dork, clearly just wanting to be in a fun movie every now and again. We can’t House of Sand and Fog all the time, now can we?

The Dictator was directed by Larry Charles, written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Alex Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer, it stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley and an uncredited appearance by John C. Reilly. 
by Jenni Townsend
Check out Arts Mitten for more reviews and arts interviews

May 21st 2012
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