Premise: Upon arriving in America, oppressive dictator General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) is kidnapped and stripped of his identity. A local, liberal feminist with hairy armpits (a game Anna Faris) befriends him, and Aladeen is forced to choose between democracy and the oppressive dictatorship he treasures so dearly.
Behind-the-Scenes: Director Larry Charles and star/co-writer Cohen previously teamed up for Borat and Bruno. The Dictator eschews reality/documentary filmmaking techniques in favor of a straight-up fictional narrative.
The Good: Gleefully offensive and politically incorrect . The Dictator takes the comedic position that if you throw enough misogynist and racist jokes at the screen, some of them are bound to stick. And yes, some do. Cohen is one of the few Hollywood players who can get away with such humor. I especially liked the running joke involving a severed head and another bit featuring a Wii video game version of the Munich Olympics – two of the few gags that weren’t ruined by the trailer. The use of music is frequently funny – a series of Arabic covers of hit U.S. pop songs. Cohen has a nice rapport with co-star Jason Mantzoukas (of FX’s The League).
The Bad: The script that weaves together all the gags is flimsy, to put it kindly. There are huge stretches of the movie where the jokes fall deadly, silently flat. We’ve seen this kind of humor from Cohen before, and he’s just recycling his go-to bag of tricks. Even his Aladeen character is non-descript, lacking any sort of personality. Aladeen is just a jumble of all the other characters we’ve already seen Cohen play. In that sense, I don’t think this is all that different from Mike Myers’ critically-slammed The Love Guru. For all the ruckus that usually accompanies Cohen’s movies, I found The Dictator rather tame, only really pushing the limits by staging a set of interior vaginal shots during an impromptu birthing scene. Yeah, you read that right. You kind of need to see it to believe it, but I don’t recommend it.
Should You See It?: Even if you’re a fan of Cohen (which I am), you can skip the theater and wait for DVD. It’s not as good as Borat or Bruno.
Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars.