Film review: The DictatorBy Kim Francis
May 23, 2012
After three hilarious and highly original hit comedy creations – Ali G, Borat and Bruno – the pressure has been on Sacha Baron Cohen to come up with a comic character that, if it doesn’t quite knock spots off the rest, at least holds its own against them.
With three home runs to his name so far, audiences are as trepidatious about the prospect of a turkey as they are excited by what Baron Cohen has brought to the big screen this time round.
Less inventive than his previous guises (dictators in our current political climate are surely an obvious target for satirists and humourists), Baron Cohen manages, to the relief of many, to elicit a few belly laughs in between the generous smattering of titters in The Dictator.
The story sees Sacha Baron Cohen’s megalomaniacal autocratic ruler, Admiral General Aladeen, head from the fictional country of Wadiya to New York to attend a televised meeting with the UN. Kidnapped once on US soil and shaved of his beard, he manages to escape but finds himself wandering the streets of New York unrecognised – much to his chagrin, particularly with an imposter taking his place.
With the unwitting help of a feminist activist, he finds a way to infiltrate the high security in place at the hotel where the event is being held. But can he step in before the underhand deal to make his country a democracy is struck?
As is typical of Sacha Baron Cohen, he will come under fire for his capacity to cause offence, and here he lampoons a particularly sensitive and pertinent subject. Alongside tasteless, unsophisticated and frankly unfunny jokes about 9/11, he also weaves in a healthy dose of misogynistic and racist jokes.
But The Dictator should be praised for its swipe not only at tyrannical dictatorships but also the Western world and what is wrong with our flawed democracies.
Though you may think the subject of despotic leaders and terrorism should be off limits in comedy at this present moment in time, helping to diminish the evil deeds perpetuated in and by certain countries, you could also argue that anything that opens a dialogue about this taboo subject or draws more attention to the world’s ills is well worth its while.
Whatever you make of the film itself, The Dictator is a bold comedy you can’t ignore.