One imagines that Sacha Baron Cohen has wanted to tell a certain type of story with his mockumentary-type films but couldn’t quite get into character enough as either Borat or Bruno to really tell it. Thus comes The Dictator, his latest “wacky” character and easily his worst film to date.
Cohen stars as Aladeen, the dictator of a fictional North African country named Wadiya. He’s a thinly veiled reference to former Libyan dictator Ghadaffi meshed with a handful of stereotypes of other Middle East dictators over the years, of course, and a trusted adviser (Ben Kingsley) wants him gone. The opportunity arises, of course, and Aladeen finds himself without his beard or his position. Enter an activist (Anna Faris) with hairy armpits and a cooperative. Aladeen spends the rest of the film adjusting to life without his fame, power or fortune until the opportunity arises to reclaim them again.
One can see why Cohen would make a film like this. He works his best when he gets to be wacky and wild, with everyone reacting to him, as opposed to being the normal funny man and Aladeen is so over the top that it falls right into his wheel house. And for the opening 20 minutes or so Cohen’s in his element as he gets to be a wacky character that we explore his world with. There are some genuinely funny comedic bits in this opening as Wadiya and Aladeen are high comedy in Cohen’s hands. This is exactly what Cohen does best.
Unfortunately once Aladeen loses everything as part of the evil plot it ends up losing all its steam and turning into a series of jokes that aren’t all that funny. It’s a cohesive narrative, and an intriguing on a couple levels, but it’s just not funny. When your film is a comedy, and it fails so enthusiastically to generate a laugh, what’s left is a solid narrative but not one that’s all that impressive.
There are 20 minutes of footage in the “Unrated” edition included that doesn’t add back into the film, a handful of Deleted Scenes and a piece with Larry King interviewing Cohen as his character.
If you can, find the first 20 minutes of this film online somewhere. It’ll give you the best bits and you won’t spend nearly 90 minutes with this film.
Paramount Home Entertainment presents The Dictator. Directed by Larry Charles. Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer. Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris and Ben Kingsley Running time: 83 minutes. Rated R. Released: August 21, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Larry Charles, Sacha Baron Cohen, The Dictator