REVIEW: The Dictator
I have never warmed up to Sacha Baron Cohen’s style of satire. The concepts are great while I find the execution in Bruno, Borat and now The Dictator, to be crude and unfunny. In both cases, I found the clever marketing more interesting and enjoyable than the actual films. The Combo Pack (Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy) from Paramount Home Video came with a nice letter from Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen with bribe bucks from Wadiya. If only the film itself was as funny.
Cohen does a fine job submerging himself into his character, in this case, Admiral General Aladeen, but he then does rude, crude, and preposterous things in the name of satire. Cohen should be made to study the Mel Brooke oeuvre to see how it should be done: character-based and smart humor.
Aladeen hails from the northern African country of Wadiya, a combination if Idi Amin and Muammar Gaddafi and the timing is such that in the wake of the Arab Spring, these sort of larger than life world leaders are a vanishing breed., There’s nothing funny to their antics and they are such caricatures that they are hard to top, making the challenge for the filmmakers all the more difficult.
Those personality and cultural differences are put on display when the dictator comes to New York to address the United Nations, denying once more his nuclear program is for weaponry designed to annihilate Israel (so much for satire). His absence prompts a coup back home, propelling the plot. Now a leader without a country, he has to fend for himself in the world’s biggest melting pot. To retain power, he comes to count on Zoey (Anna Faris) and a fellow Wadiyan, Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas), the leader thought dead. We go to a voyage of self-discovery of the pleasures in life, from masturbation to falling in love, which makes little sense when Aladeen is the most powerful figure in his country. Why is he so out of touch in this global world? Cohen doesn’t pause to explain any of this preferring to make his character simply clueless. The film goes from satire to screwball romantic comedy to biting denouncement of our country and therefore doesn’t feel like much of anything but a few sketches without a strong point of view.
We have some fun cameos from Chris Parnell, Jessica St. Clair, Fred Armisen, Nasim Pedrad, John C. Reilly, Chris Elliot, Gary Shandling, Edward Norton and Horatio Sanz.
The disc comes with the theatrical release and the “Banned and Unrated” version, fifteen more minutes of this nonsense, mostly extended bits between Cohen and Mantzoukas. The hype is unwarranted because it makes the film more boring and unwatchable. We get more scatological and sexual jokes which really aren’t that funny.
Despite the extra material in the new cut, the extras include an additional 34 minutes of deleted or extended scenes which makes me admire the editor for showing some discretion. Lots of these bits are found in the longer version. Additional material includes “Your Money is On The Dresser” (1:35), a music video with the leader; and an unnecessary extended version of the Larry King interview (2:49).
I suppose if you love this sort of sophomoric humor, the movie and disc are perfect for you. On the other hand, given the film’s poor critical reception and lackluster box office performance, it could be that we’ve all grown tired of Cohen’s brand of humor and his time as a polarizing comedic figure has finally come to an end. We can hope for this right up there with our desire for world peace.