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The Dictator (2012) Review

Released: 16 May 2012

After Borat and to some extent the much forgotten Ali G Indahouse, a sort of mental preparation is required before you step into the cinema to watch a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. What should I expect? How far will he cross the line? Will there be two naked men rolling around together? These are all fair questions to ask. So as you sit back to the sight of a Kim Jong-il dedication, there is a feeling that you might be in for a few nervy laughs.

After the more sporadic Bruno back in 2009, Cohen needed a comeback, something that went past the spoof interviews and slapstick buffoonery. In The Dictator at least the first of these was achieved. General Aladeen is the latest persona out of Cohen’s closet, broader and more universal than his previous characters.

The plot is simple; Aladeen travels to the US (no surprise that the Americans are the subject of the jokes once more) to address the UN and promise to hold free elections in his nation of Wadiya. There is a “love” story, some backstabbing, and all of the other parts that surround any Cohen film.

But it is the comedy that we are all anticipating. How much will our sides hurt after this one? The jokes were brash, in your face and kept on firing like a well-oiled machine gun, and as usual some hit and some miss. But that is to be expected with Cohen; tasteless humour is sometimes too bland. Yet this film was clearly satirical, and some gags even required a bit of current affairs knowledge, a bit like Mock the Week but with a man dressed up as a dictator. And just to top it off, the classic inspirational “change of heart” speech at the end, which is an unashamedly obvious dig at American foreign policy.

Like in Borat and Ali G, this film is never just a one man show. Cohen is supported well from the side by Anna Faris who plays Zoey, the “love interest” in the film. Some things are better left unsaid in this relationship, but suffice it to say that through the love plot, we get a more empathetic side to Aladeen. Weapons expert Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) is terrific, playing the all important sidekick role to the Supreme Leader.

The Dictator is a film that sees Cohen back on form with a new type of character. It is formulaic, but that does not take away from the hilarity of what is another cringe worthy but highly entertaining movie, and we wouldn’t expect anything less.