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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.

Future Flicks: Sacha Baron Cohen as The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen has pulled out a new character from his wardrobe of personas, with a name yet unknown, but a picture that reveals a lead role inspired by Saddam Hussein. Larry Charles, director of Borat and Bruno, returns to lead the way for the latest antics of Cohen in The Dictator.

The plotline of the film is unclear, but it takes its inspiration from the novel Zabibah and The King written by the former Iraqi tyrant. The official press release sheds little light on the picture claiming that the movie “tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed”.

It is clear however, from the oversized sunglasses, the humorous symmetry of hair between head and chin, and the straight-faced Cohen with an exuberant costume, that The Dictator promises more ridiculous and over the top comedy.

Anna Faris (Scary Movie), Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island) and Jason Mantzoukas (I Hate Valentine’s Day) will be joining Cohen in the upcoming shenanigans.

Cohen’s next screen appearance will be in Scorsese adventure film, Hugo Cabret which follows the mysterious escapades of an orphan, dwelling in a 1930s Paris train station.

The Dictator is scheduled for release on 11 May 2012, and as the year progresses, it will be interesting to see how it develops building up to the release next spring.

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