“The Dictator” is offensive, crude, politically incorrect, absurd, insulting, and vulgar. It also made me laugh from beginning to end.
“The Dictator” is the latest brainchild from comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who is best known for the movies “Borat” and “Bruno.” In those movies, Cohen took an outrageous character out into the real world and let the cameras roll as he went bonkers on the unsuspecting citizenry.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of those movies because I don’t find making real people feel uncomfortable to be particularly funny (a matter of personal taste to be sure) and I wasn’t all that impressed by Cohen duping rednecks, which simply amounts to picking the lowest-hanging fruit. Between all the UFO sightings and seeing Jesus’ face on a piece of toast, convincing them Cohen was a reporter from Kazakhstan doesn’t seem like that far of a stretch.
But in the fully scripted “The Dictator,” Cohen might have come up with his boldest creation yet as Admiral General Aladeen.
Aladeen is the dictator of the fictional African country of Wadiya and he rules his people in the manner of other Middle-Eastern megalomaniacs like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, whose own reigns featured details so insane that Cohen just lifts them out with little exaggeration and places them in his movie where they play for big laughs.
The plot plays out with a standard “Prince and Pauper” storyline as Aladeen comes to New York City to defend his nuclear ambitions to the United Nations. But once he arrives in the United States, Aladeen’s treacherous uncle (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) attempts to have Aladeen killed and replaced with a double (also played by Cohen).
Aladeen escapes his killers but finds himself on the streets of New York with no one believing he is the ruler of Wadiya. He is taken in by Anna Faris, who plays a feminist owner of a co-op grocery store in Brooklyn.
As you would imagine there is a lot of mileage to be gotten out of a former dictator being reduced to a grocery store clerk and Cohen runs with it for all it’s worth.
The rest of the movie is a string of comedic set pieces that land with varying degrees of success as Aladeen plots his return to power.
When making this movie Cohen must have been thinking quite a bit about the beloved Charlie Chaplin film “The Great Dictator,” which lampooned Hitler when he was at the height of his power.
While he certainly takes his swings at contemporary despicable heads of state (the film opens with a card that reads “In loving memory of Kim Jong-il”), Cohen also assaults the audience’s comfort zone.
Cohen’s comedy comes from toying with taboos, stretching the boundaries of good taste and the thrill of watching him walk the tightrope between “edgy” and “reprehensibly offensive.”
Because of the movie’s full-frontal assault on topics of sexual, racial, political, and cultural nature, I can’t in good faith recommend it to, well, anybody. Odds are high that something in “The Dictator” will offend you.
But there is a method to Cohen’s madness and in my humble opinion “The Dictator” is his finest hour. By cracking wise about subjects most people are hesitant even to mention, Cohen shows us where our boundaries are and then makes us question why we’ve put them there in the first place. Plus, lest I make this sound too intellectual, there are plenty of poop jokes.
“The Dictator” is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language, and some violent images.