Laugh. Regret. Repeat.
If you have already seen either Borat or Bruno, then chances are you have already made up your mind about whether or not you will see The Dictator, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest farce. Although the style of humor is the same, there is a major difference separating his latest film from the previous two: it actually is a movie. While his two previous comedies were essentially “reality” cinema, having his outrageous characters interact with “real” people in “real” situations, The Dictator actually has a plot, with characters played by real actors. Not just any actors, either: we’re talking Oscar-worthy (or -winning) talent here. The movie also, whether we want to admit it or not, has a point.
The dictator of the title, General Aladeen, is no less outrageous than either of Sacha Baron Cohen’s previous characters. He’s the ruthless leader of the fictional country of Wadiya, where he orders the immediate execution of anyone—human or animal—that crosses him or even looks at him wrong. While the residents of his country reside in poverty, he hangs out in his massive palace playing Wii games that allow him to reenact events of terrorism such as the hostage crisis at the Munich Olympics.
When visiting the United States in order to speak to the United Nations, General Aladeen is kidnapped, tortured, and replaced by an imposter, an imposter who is a pawn in a conspiracy to turn Wadiya into a (gasp!) democracy. Unrecognizable without his beard, which was removed as part of the torture, Aladeen works his way into the employment of an activist Vegan store owner whose contract to cater a major UN event he sees as his ticket to bust in and stop the conspirators.
Just like Borat and Bruno, The Dictator generates a lot of laughs, most of which are followed by an immediate sense of regret when you realize what you have just laughed at. Nothing is off-limits in a Sacha Baron Cohen movie, and if you still think that it’s too soon for jokes about September 11th, then this is definitely not the movie for you. A gag revolving around the aftermath of 9/11 is just one of many jokes in this film that are in very bad taste, some of which admittedly work, while others just left most of the audience in shock.
Other jokes, meanwhile, are not so much in bad taste, they’re just dirty, very dirty jokes that would be at home in your average teen gross-out comedy. Every once in a while you may find a “clean” gag, such as a running bit about Aladeen’s attempts to pick a fake name, but those are very few and far between.
Not surprisingly, much of the humor is aimed at our political system. Essentially, if Michael Moore decided to quit making documentaries and make gross-out comedies instead, this might be close to what you would find. Admittedly, the movie actually makes some good points when suggesting that the United States is closer to being a dictatorship than we would want to believe and this argument may offend some people in the audience even more so than the movie’s tasteless sense of humor.
Of course, our country is not a dictatorship. If it were, this movie surely would never see the light of day. Some people would probably find that to be okay, but others, especially those who like gross-out comedies and don’t offend easily, will probably be glad that they can express their right to freedom by seeing The Dictator.
The Dictator is rated R for “strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language, and some violent images.” Was that all? It seemed like there would be more. The R rating is definitely appropriate.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Dictator.