The Dictator (2012)

The Dictator
Add to Queue

Strong crude humour, sexual references and nudity

Director: Larry Charles
Actors: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, J.B. Smoove, B.J. Novak, Megan Fox, Kevin Corrigan, Jason Mantzoukas, Jim Piddock

The film 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.

DVD
Status: QuickPick
Run time: 80mins
Origin: UNITED STATES
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
The democracy of laughter
by Simon Miraudo,

The democratic process is alive and well in every cinema screening The Dictator, and in every home where it will play from now until the end of time (or, until all entertainment is replaced by automated, personalised singing competitions streamed directly into our brain; whatever comes first). Has star, co-writer, and creative head Sacha Baron Cohen gone too far? Has his shtick worn out its welcome? Is director Larry Charles able to transition his subject's sensibilities from the realm of prankery and into a scripted narrative opposite actors who are similarly in on the joke? These are questions that are answered with involuntary, guttural reactions: laughs. It's true that we sometimes succumb to movies that are perhaps undeserving of our undulating hoos and has; movies that traffic in gag...

The democratic process is alive and well in every cinema screening The Dictator, and in every home where it will play from now until the end of time (or, until all entertainment is replaced by automated, personalised singing competitions streamed directly into our brain; whatever comes first). Has star, co-writer, and creative head Sacha Baron Cohen gone too far? Has his shtick worn out its welcome? Is director Larry Charles able to transition his subject's sensibilities from the realm of prankery and into a scripted narrative opposite actors who are similarly in on the joke? These are questions that are answered with involuntary, guttural reactions: laughs. It's true that we sometimes succumb to movies that are perhaps undeserving of our undulating hoos and has; movies that traffic in gags so cheap they give you change. But laughter never lies, and just like in a real democracy, sometimes the undeserving gets the majority of votes. It may not be an ideal system, but dammit, it's the best system we've got.

The Dictator marks Baron Cohen's first film featuring a new comic creation, and not one that debuted on his Ali G show (such as the eponymous Ali G, as well as foreign correspondents Borat Sagdiyev and Bruno Gehard). As Admiral General Aladeen of North African nation Wadiya, he rules over his poverty-stricken citizens with an iron fist from his gargantuan palace, hires Hollywood actresses like Megan Fox to make sex with him, orders the execution of any underlings that anger him, denounce him, or accidentally block his passage in a stairwell, and passes time by playing a Wii game that simulates the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. Life is good.

Aladeen is the least complete character in the notorious comedian's wheelhouse; think a mean-spirited Borat with a slightly better grasp of English. What he lacks in realisation, Baron Cohen makes up with chutzpah. There is nary an awkward or horrifying scenario he won't subject himself to, and, despite the lack of fearless japery as seen in Borat and Bruno, The Dictator has its fair share of gleefully embarrassing, shudder-inspiring moments.

The Admiral General travels to New York, where his right-hand man (Ben Kingsley) arranges for his assassination. An American spook (John C. Reilly, in a brief cameo) kidnaps Aladeen and shaves his beard before accidentally letting him escape. Meanwhile, a dim-witted double takes his place; a former goat-herder who will sign a new constitution for Wadiya and allow foreign oil interests into the country. He will also milk the female members of the royal harem, because, well, it's a mildly amusing visual image and the bar here is set fairly low. The deposed despot hatches a plan to reclaim the throne with his old (and thought to be dead) expatriated nuclear scientist Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas, as Baron Cohen's best foil yet). The charms of an ultra-liberal feminist greengrocer who caters to people of "all or no" sexes proves a distraction though, and inspires Aladeen to become a kinder, gentler tyrant. The grocer, Zoe, is played by the effortlessly hilarious Anna Faris, and her presence here is welcome and warm; it serves best as a reminder that she deserves to have the same power to craft starring vehicles as her male colleague is afforded today.

The aforementioned Wii sight gag gave me pause; made me wonder if perhaps a line had been crossed. What's most troubling however is that it was the only moment in the movie to raise that question in me, and surely a more successful satire would inspire that doubt at nearly every turn. Granting a few barbs shot in the direction of the United States and their spotty cultural and political track record, The Dictator is hardly as ferocious or jaw-dropping as Baron Cohen and Charles' previous collaborations. But, being unfunny is a far greater crime than being offensive, and, for better or worse, it's rarely both. Any boundary-pushing is mostly of a gross-out nature. I chuckled more often than I didn't. Like with so many elections - the kind yearned for by the residents of Wadiya - we submit our vote and state our preference somewhat begrudgingly. The Dictator ain't great, but it'll do.

3/5

Check out Simon's other reviews here.

Read More

Member Reviews (26)

BAD TASTE
says
This film is in bad taste. Only one star from me... Much preferred "Borat! "
Posted Monday, 14 April 2014 See my other reviews
Craig H.
says
Same jokes in a different costume
Posted Saturday, 15 February 2014 See my other reviews
Steve
says
The other movies were funny and witty. He has run out of ideas. Al this lowest common denominator sex jokes. Fast forwarded to end. The only funny bit was in the helicopter. Would have hated to waste money seeing this in the cinema.
Posted Tuesday, 7 January 2014 See my other reviews
Lynnieb
says
Cringe worthy at its best. Sometimes I honestly had to look away lol. But still some funny moments.
Posted Thursday, 26 December 2013 See my other reviews
Very ordinary compared to the last few that he has done. So much funnier when he is taking the p*** out of the USA when they are real people, not this stupid c*** trying to make a story. Having said that I laughed a few time so not a complete waste of time
Posted Friday, 1 November 2013 See my other reviews
Rod T
says
This was terrible. It was no where near as good as his last two. Trying to turn this sort of humour into a story is really ineffective. Apart from a couple of funny moments, it was really all too much. Loved Borat, could not stand this
Posted Thursday, 31 October 2013 See my other reviews
Ronn McD
says
the best of Baron-Cohen, much more entertaining than Bruno (yuch!)
Posted Wednesday, 17 July 2013 See my other reviews
gerd
says
So ridiculous that it's quite hilarious. Antics of various recent dictators are deservedly lampooned. But the USA isn't spared either: a run-down of all the things America could do if it wasn't a democracy is spot-on. It's comedy and satire at its best.
Posted Tuesday, 25 June 2013 See my other reviews
stanarosa
says
had funny bits but very crude so would not for us.
Posted Monday, 3 June 2013 See my other reviews
Darren
says
Very funny for all the wrong reasons. Much better than Bruno which went way too far. References to an American democracy and what happens in a dictatorship was very clever and poignant.
Posted Monday, 8 April 2013 See my other reviews
Otto
says
Very funny. A sarcastic dig at American democracy and a very unflattering portrayal of various Arab countries. I liked the way they worked in actual footage of politicians such as Obama and Karzai.
Posted Thursday, 28 March 2013 See my other reviews
david simon
says
I'm not a fan of Sasha Baron Cohen but I did manage to sit through this all the way. I've bumped it up from 2 to 3 stars for one particular scene where he describes what he loves about dictatorship and in doing so, actually describes the realities of American "democracy"!
Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 See my other reviews
Mary B
says
Is it possible to cringe for the entire length of a film? Well I did. Not even funny, it's all bad taste.
Posted Friday, 15 February 2013 See my other reviews
Gabrielle
says
Sardonic Humor. Not bad at all, would watch it again. My only complaint is that it was too short!
Posted Tuesday, 29 January 2013 See my other reviews
Mick T
says
rubbish...not funny
Posted Thursday, 20 December 2012 See my other reviews
kimbo
says
Sasha Cohen is old news. The movie had a cheap comedy. If you will laugh at anything then its not bad. I rather go to sleep. The movie has no sense of direction. The actors are C- storyline is weak There are some funny line here and there. Borat was excellent, however this was disappointment.
Posted Friday, 7 December 2012 See my other reviews
Ron
says
If you're familiar with Sasha Baron Cohen, you'll know what to expect. Some jokes fall a bit flat, & some are typically crude, but there's plenty of laughs for plenty of reasons. A movie you can't take seriously, but yet delivers a very serious dig at the similarities between dictatorship & democracy. Quite brilliant I think. I'm surprised any American movie studio even agreed to make it.
Posted Wednesday, 28 November 2012 See my other reviews
Mike
says
As a lover of bad taste, I cannot recommend this movie too highly, but then I love all his movies. In our gooey PC world Baron-Cohen crosses every societal taboo. Refreshing and very funny for those who delight in the bad taste productions that used to be around 40 years ago.
Posted Wednesday, 14 November 2012 See my other reviews
Geoff @gol
says
Borat was very very wrong but funny; enough to get away with it and be excused. Like Bruno this one does not make it. Teenagers may like it but such a poor script and such a waste of talent.The filth and sexual references were not funny so just remained crude and unnecessary. Sorry COHEN you need to find another vehicle for your humour. DON'T BOTHER with this one.
Posted Friday, 9 November 2012 See my other reviews
hanzee
says
running out of ideas to make me laugh?
Posted Wednesday, 24 October 2012 See my other reviews
If you like witty humor, edgy jokes and insightful gags brimming with wit and wisdom... then this film is not for you. If you have the I.Q of a rancid turnip and think someone farting his hilarious... then stick the popcorn on and indulge your inner moron. 1/10
Posted Tuesday, 23 October 2012 See my other reviews
gjmcn
says
Warning this movie is offensive and extremely politically incorrect. Having said that I am sure that anyone familiar with SBC's material knows that already and some parts of this movie I found funny. I was not in the particular targetted section of the community. This movie was a series of comedic scenarios loosely patched into a plot and tied with the usual kind of moral message bow often found in Adam Sandler movies. The speech to the UN by the main character about the benefits of the US electing a Dictator is an intelligent example, and of course the the Villain gets the girl and love (kinda) triumphs. One of the best performances was from the Nuclear scientist turned Apple Bar Genius although I don't get his motivation.
Posted Wednesday, 17 October 2012 See my other reviews
Aaron Ramon Ki Re
says
Sacha Baron Cohen is at it again - offending those who shouldn't be offended and pushing the boundaries of cultural and political bad taste. There is brilliant method in his madness. Much better than Bruno (but doesn't beat Borat!) , it's quite funny in most parts.
Posted Tuesday, 16 October 2012 See my other reviews
Cindy
says
While it's uneven, predictable and lacks some of the satirical bite of his earlier films, The Dictator is still worth a watch. Just don't expect too much.
Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 See my other reviews
Johnson
says
Cohen's humour is best when he's interacting with moronic people -- Borat was brilliant in that respect. But here, the whole film is fully-scripted and nowhere near as insightful. Funny, but not really his best work. I hope he goes back to the "unscripted" humour in his next film.
Posted Wednesday, 10 October 2012 See my other reviews
Josh
says
Saw this a bit earlier today. Quite a hilariously offensive and enjoyably silly movie. Sacha Baron Cohen really does steal the show in this picture.
Posted Saturday, 19 May 2012 See my other reviews