You either dig Sacha Baron Cohen’s style of character-driven raunchy humour or you despise it with all your heart. I generally consider myself a fan of his work and thought Da Ali G Show, Borat, and to a lesser extent Brüno, were all hilarious creations that I laugh at just thinking about. With The Dictator, Cohen has taken his character one step beyond the limits of what’s usually acceptable and has possibly made the most shocking film of his career. And boy is it funny.
Dedicated to the memory of Kim Jong-il, The Dictator tells the story of General Aladeen (Cohen); the ruler of the fictional African nation Wadiya. When Aladeen gets into the nuclear weapons business, the UN calls upon him to come to New York City to go before a concerned committee. After he lands in the Big Apple, he’s intercepted and has his signature beard chopped off. Unrecognizable, he’s left on the streets to watch as an imposter tries to bring democracy to Wadiya. Of course things get silly as Aladeen tries to fit in as an American citizen and hilarity ensues.
Similar to Cohen’s previous films, The Dictator is directed by Larry Charles and for the most part the film is all about Cohen’s character. Surprisingly though, there’s a female lead played by Anna Faris. As we know from the Scary Movie franchise, Faris is not afraid of gross-out stunts and plays it up with Cohen perfectly. I honestly can’t imagine another actress being able to keep up with him as well as she did.
As Aladeen’s right-hand, Tamir, Ben Kingsley is the least likely person you would expect to see in this film. And I still don’t know if I like seeing him act like a oddball or not. He did bring a few laughs and I guess it’s a nice change from the more serious work he usually does, but it is unsettling.
While there is no doubt that The Dictator is all about getting laughs and gasps from the audience, there is an underlying political message directed at America. Whether a majority of people get it or not time will tell.
In the end The Dictator succeeds at being shocking and amusing just as well as Borat did. It’s definitely not for everyone though so make sure you know what you’re getting into before venturing out to the theatre.
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley
Directed by: Larry Charles
Top image: A scene from The Dictator. Courtesy Paramount Pictures.