May 30 2012 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
THE Dictator is the latest comedy from the mind of Sacha Baron Cohen.
Cohen stars as Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of Wadiya, who travels to New York to address rumours he is developing a nuclear weapon but after a double cross, is left to fend for himself.
Cohen’s previous work wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea (and I’m with the detractors on Ali G) but Borat and Bruno were laugh-out-loud riots.
The Dictator doesn’t match the hilarity of those two films but offers enough laughs to make it a worthwhile viewing pleasure... just.
Borat, Bruno and Curb Your Enthusiasm (legendary show!) director Larry Charles teams up with Cohen again behind the camera and the results will be very familiar for fans of the pair’s previous collaborations.
Non-PC actions, fish-out-of-water gags, digs at various cultures and, yes, male nudity are all rehashed – and to be honest, the formula feels a bit tired.
Cohen wrote the screenplay with Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer, who have big-screen (Eurotrip) and small-screen (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld) comedy writing experience.
There’s more of an actual narrative structure this time around after the faux-documentary style used in Borat and Bruno.
But what little story there is just gives Cohen an excuse to let loose with another riotous comedic creation.
Whether splatting his manhood on a window, condemning the female gender (“I love it when a woman goes to school. It’s like seeing a monkey on roller skates; it means nothing to them, but it’s so adorable for us”), or mocking Middle Eastern tyrants (“what are civil rights?”), Cohen throws himself head-on into making us laugh.
Some jokes work and some don’t. It’s sunny outside at the time of writing so let’s start with what does.
There’s a parody of live news commentary and on-air body language ‘experts’ that’s ace just for the presence of Chris Parnell (30 Rock’s Dr Spaceman), a helicopter scene where an American couple are terrified at the prospect of another 9/11 is a stand-out moment, and who would’ve thought a severed head could cause hilarity (yes, I know!)
Megan Fox deserves credit too for sending herself up as a glorified prostitute (I’m not going to go there!) and I’m not sure what the organisers of London’s 2012 Olympics would make of General Aladeen’s own take on the games.
Now for what falls flat. Running gags about Anna Faris’ (Zoey) character looking like a boy (“Hairy Potter”) quickly run out of steam, the body double used to replace General Aladeen (Efawadh, also played by Cohen) is just too dumb and a Wii game with terrorist attacks feels a bit too close to the bone.
Ben Kingsley (Tamir) is wasted, a true crime of cinema, and it’s a pity that the entertaining banter between Aladeen and Jason Mantzoukas’ Nadal comes so late in the day; more focus on that relationship and less on Cohen and Faris’ romance would’ve benefited proceedings.
The Dictator is too up-and-down to be classed as vintage Cohen but we’re far from Ali G territory and your laughs will comfortably reach double figures, which for any modern comedy is decent going.
And any movie that includes ex-US Vice-President Dick Cheney on a list of dictators and implies that Arnold Schwarzenegger indulges in some interesting sexual activities has to be worth a watch, right?...
Rating – 6 out of 10.