Sacha Baron Cohen hit the proverbial gold mine when he brought the persona of Borat to the big screen – the character was a candid profile of a misinformed foreign journalist who somehow managed to insult everyone he came into contact with. Now Cohen, once again returns in a similiar stint but with the backing of a fully written script but does it retain that uncanny style that made Borat a classic?
Admiral General Aladeen, the vile dictator of the North African country of Wadiya, travels to the UN headquarters and approach the security council of whom have threatened militant action against Wadiya. The dictator is acccompanied by his treacherous uncle Tamir who has him kidnapped and shaved to mask his identity and replace him with a body double that will bend to Tamir’s will. Now without his identity, Aladeen must find a way to prevent his country from becoming a democracy but without his beloved beard.
When I heard that Sacha Baron Cohen was creating a Borat style character within a scripted, Hollywood style environment, I had my reservations. One of the reasons why Borat worked so well was the how the supporting cast was completely oblivious to Cohen’s alter ego. After watching the trailers I was even more concerned as it seemed that The Dictator was going to be a one trick pony that didn’t have any character or anything new to offer. Those worries, thankfully have been put to rest and I walked out of the cinema entirely satisfied with the film that could have gone so wrong but turned out so right.
The Dictator is without a doubt less offensive than any of Cohen’s previous efforts – he still takes pot shots at Westerners (specifically Americans) and Jews but this is something of his signature and if you’re going to take it seriously, then you deserve to be offended. It’s just a movie and it shows a lot more tact, mocking stereotypes and the characters visual appearance more than anything else. His behaviour as an Arab modeled ruler captures the media driven image in a pitch perfect display of vile, uncouth, misogyny that, while despicable also makes him extremely likable.
Cohen runs the show but he’s complemented by a wealth of talent including the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris (who has finally been given a role that doesn’t paint her as an idiotic female stereotype of the lowest order). Instead, Faris plays the role of an green loving hippy who Aladeen frequently insults but never is gratified with the response he expects, in fact she usually brushes him off as a simpleton with a third world narrow minded mentality.
The Dictator dabbles in a large variety of comedy ranging from a barrage of insults to the expected fart jokes but unlike the slapstick approach that has become all too common, this all encompassing array of visual and verbal humour kept me in stitches frequently and that is how a comedy film should be. It may come at the expense of others but it isn’t characterised by sporadic snickers – it is blunt laughter at its finest. It isn’t politically correct and has the relevance of the real world turmoil that the Arab world is experiencing in the current day which elevates this film above the conventional Hollywood garbage that is spewed out on a weekly basis.
If you happen to be one of the many fans of Cohen’s Borat film, The Dictator should put any fears to rest – it draws on that in your face brand of humour that has made Borat so endearing. It’s not quite as risque as Bruno which is fortunate because I personally feel that after Borat, Cohen tried to exploit his humour to degree that just didn’t pay off. It should also be noted that if you do not have a sense of humour or are one of those people that get offended whether the insults are aimed at you or not, this might not be the best option for you.
The Bottom Line
The Dictator takes the best of Borat and wraps into a slick package complimented by the added value of a full production team. It retains Cohen’s signature style of comedy and while it might not be as provocative as his previous efforts, The Dictator still rings true as an hilarious outing populated by a wealth of stereotypes that always strike the funny bone. It’s not an instant classic and the scripted formula takes away any cringeworthy moments but it’s wholey enjoyable from start to finish.