Film Review : The Dictator
● By Justin Buettner
Sacha Baron Cohen stars as Aladeen, a North African dictator that comes to America to try to prevent the UN from launching a military assault on his country which it wrongly suspects of creating a nuclear weapon. Once in New York, Aladeen’s second hand man Tamir plans a failed assassination and replaces Aladeen with a fake. Now stranded in New York, Aladeen must find a way to sneak into the UN and reclaim his identity before the imposter signs a declaration of democracy.
It is no secret that Sacha Baron Cohen aims to make people laugh by both shocking and insulting them. I find that type of comedy sort of strange, but there is a segment of people out there that seem to like it. In this sort of comedy the plot is loose and unimportant as the filmmakers throw as many jokes on the screen and hope that at least some of it sticks. As usual, some of it does and some of it doesn’t. Where the Dictator will find trouble is that the audience has grown numb to the shock value that it produces. Comedies over the last decade in this vein have had to topped each other and perhaps they are nearing the ceiling of bad taste? It is far more difficult at least than it was a decade ago when movies like Jackass and South Park starting coming out in theaters. Don’t think the filmmakers didn’t try, but I’m not so sure they succeed in making their audience squirm like they did when their earlier movies Borat and Bruno were released.
I judge comedies by the amount of times it made me laugh. There were a few funny moments in the Dictator. Especially at the beginning when the comedy spotlight was squarely on ruthlessly making fun of dictatorships. Even the opening credits that begins with an “in memory of Kim Jong Il” made me smile. Once the movie moves to New York the jokes are not nearly as funny or clever. The movie really starts hitting bottom when it resorts to bad sex jokes including a birthing scene that features shots from inside a womb. The movie also struggles to find a way to endear the Aladeen character to an audience as well. Aladeen is so awful that it is hard to root for the character to achieve his goal, which clearly the movie aims to do.
Perhaps one of the most shocking parts of The Dictator is the inclusion of Ben Kingsley in the film. Kingsley is one of the very best actors in Hollywood and usually sticks to far more dramatic and award worthy films. To see him in a low brow comedy was a bit strange. His character is not given anything funny to do, so unfortunately we don’t ever get the chance to see him try his hand at comedy, oh well.
Fans of Sacha Baron Cohen’s previous films will most likely find enough to like about the Dictator. Because this is the third go around with this creative team I think it’s very fair to say that this film will not feel as fresh, funny or shocking as his previous two movies. If you are unfamiliar with this style of humor the closest comparison I can give you is South Park. If you are easily offended or are not a fan of gross out humor I would suggest staying far away from this movie. I felt as though there may be enough laughs in the Dictator for a home rental but not enough laughs to warrant a ten dollar movie ticket. Comedy seekers beware.
Films like The Dictator : Borat, Bruno, and South Park : Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.