The Dictator

Directed by: Larry Charles

Written by: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris,  and John C. Reilly

General Aladeen (Baron Cohen) of (the fictional) Wadiya is a Dictator and oppressor of his country who is required to answer to the UN for creating a nuclear arsenal. When he journeys to NYC he’s betrayed by his right hand man (Ben Kingsley) and has to fight to ensure that democracy will never come to his country that he’s so lovingly oppressed.

I will say that there are fleeting moments of biting satirical genius that are reminiscent of the very clear inspiration of for this film Chaplin’s The Great DictatorBut the 3 minutes of the film’s total success drown in (an albeit short – but drawn out) 84 minute running time. There was a moment that I whispered to my fiancé beside me “do you think that people will notice if we leave?”

Courtesy of LA Times

Baron Cohen uses the same strategy of fostering stereotypes to undermine and fashions a composite of Arab Dictators throughout history, except this time the story is infused with your typical odd couple rom-com structure that destroys the immediacy and immersive experience of Baron Cohen’s brand. Baron Cohen has played ‘auteur’ since his first (and I would argue) greatest creation in Ali G. There’s a consistency in his relentless comedic voice when he injects these characters into as real an experience as he can. And his well of tried and true characters from the short vignettes in the Ali G show has run dry.

The Aladeen character and his Dictator antics are impossible to ingratiate into real-life situations that Baron Cohen’s organic and spontaneous brilliance catches unsuspecting victims. So he’s allowed a much vaster budget, and is at the whim of input from the studio to get to his vision. The casting is totally baffling. The wonderful Ben Kingsley is under used and unfunny, and Anna (someone has attacked her in the top lip with a tomahawk) Farris is anti-humour. Her stupid, husky, dullard blended stereotype is a vacuum for funny. The plot and screenplay overall is a mess. There’s a clear disparity between the voices of the writers and the genuine laughs are few and far between. The racism, gender bias and stereotype gags work in their first application but you’re beaten over the head with them so often that within moments you’re tired.

The Dictator is a slogan t-shirt movie. It’s funny momentarily; but tiresome, boring and flat out infantile the longer that you’re forced to stare at it. 

[rating=1]

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman

The Dictator  was released in Australia and the USA on the 16 May 2012.

BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.