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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Dictator

Sorry, got sidetracked writing an Amazing Spider-man review but here's my slightly belated take on Sacha Baron Cohen's latest film.

The Dictator is supposed to be a great change of pace for Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy career in that it's fully scripted, rather than being strung around some uncomfortable real-life meet ups between ordinary people and one of Baron Cohen's absurd creations. So why then does it feel so very, very stale?

Not to say that the film doesn't have a few decent chuckles and, even when aiming for the lowest common denominator, it never plumbs the same depths of your average Adam Sandler film, but it fails to build up any real interest whatsoever. It's so underwhelming, in fact, that it's hard to even build up enough enthusiasm to review the wretched thing.

The plot starts off promising enough. General Aladeen, the dictatorial ruler of a small North African country travels to the USA to tell the UN where to stick their objections to his plans to create a nuclear weapons program for his country, before finding himself replaced with an impostor who not only plans to sign a peace treaty but also to sell off the country's oil to the highest bidder. You can almost taste the socio-political satire. Sadly, the film never ever lives up to its premise as it constantly succumbs to lazy and rather obvious scatological humour, uninspired writing and a central performance that comes off as nothing more than Borat-lite.     

Sacha Baron Cohen is clearly a genuinely smart and undeniably funny guy so, sure, some of the jokes are funny enough - but, you know, not really funny enough, if you catch my drift - and there is some half-hearted and fairly obvious satire thrown in on occasion, but The Dictator is, at all  of 85 minutes, overlong and is demonstrably the work of an often great comedian slumming it.

Even Aladeens' anti-American speech at the end feels blatantly obvious, rather than truly iconoclastic or biting - though, to be fair, that might say more about modern American politics than about the film itself. In fact, the most politically astute and arguably funny accidental joke in the film is that the non-specific "Arabic" language that Aladeen speaks in the film is actually heavily accented Hebrew. But again, haven't we already seen that in Borat?

Maybe it's time for Baron Cohen to leave Larry Charles behind and find a fresh, new collaborator to truly make the best of his considerable talents. As it is, he was better, funnier and more likable in his small part in Hugo than he is in the entirety of The Dictator as we get to see him work with a director who seems far more in tune with Baron Cohen's comedic stylings than his longtime collaborator and partner in crime - and the last thing that anyone would call Martin Scorsese is a comedy director. 

Forget The Dictator. It's really not worth the bother. May I suggest a double-bill of Hugo and the best of The Ali G Show instead? Trust me, you'll thank me later.

Well, unless you're a regular Channel24 reader, of course. Considering my track record, you'll probably love it!


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