The Dictator

In 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen launched to stardom playing his signature character, Borat. The movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” was rude, crude, offensive, obnoxious, racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic… and funny as Hell.

This weekend he offered up “The Dictator,” a comedy that is also rude, crude, offensive, obnoxious, racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-semitic.

Only this time? Funny, not so much.

It didn’t take me much time at all to put my finger on why I love “Borat” (and I do), but I was underwhelmed by “The Dictator”. Above and beyond the fact that they’re different movies entirely, “Borat” had a gonzo comedy element to it. Baron Cohen was punking people as he went. Making things up on the fly. I’m certain that there was a considerable amount of planning, writing, framing, staging, etc… and I’m not trying to discount that. But the fact that Cohen was in character continuously regardless of the situation, and the fact that he was so easily able to expose the faults and foibles of Americans so easily… it was simply amazing. To me, it was a work of comedic genius. Part movie, part performance art.

In a scripted situation, it’s simply not as effective. Because make no mistake, in spite of all the differences between the two, the vein of humor Baron Cohen is attempting to mine is the same. People’s willingness to laugh at something shockingly offensive.

Like Borat, “The Dictator” is a character driven comedy. Certainly there are jokes, situation gags, etc… but the primary gag is the lead character himself. Admiral General Aladeen is a bearded buffoon, the Dictator of the African nation of Wadiya, and an oppresive tyrant. He lives a luxuriant lifestyle and has anyone who questions him executed. He spends his time hiring famous people to prostitute for him (one of the funniest moments of the movie), playing outrageously offensive customized video games (one of the most insensitive) and surrounding himself with gold plated everything.

After the UN demands an appearance, he travels to New York City, prepared to deliver a tirade. The night before, however, he is betrayed by his own people, and abducted. He manages to escape, but has been shorn of his beard and stripped of his clothes. Now, no one will recognize him and he is unable to get to the United Nations. Worse still, he has to watch as an imposter promises to turn his country into a democracy. Luckily for him, he runs across Anna Faris (the owner of a local bodega) who is willing to help him and give him a job. Of course, she also happens to be the most politically correct, liberally minded, environmentally conscious feminist imaginable in order to provide a foil for Aladeen’s barbaric attitudes.

It’s not exactly subtle, but nothing in this movie was intended to be. In fact, if anything, it’s intended to be “in your face”. The movie opens with an “In Loving Memory of Kim Jong Il” and includes such things as a custom video game turning the Munich Olympics into a first person shooter. In light of the current geo-political state, and the fact that people have died and are dying in the ongoing “Arab Spring”, I just didnt feel like laughing at a lot of what he was doing. So there were a few moments when I was actually offended, but I also just wasn’t amused enough. I didnt find Aldaeen to be humorous, and the situations he got into were painfully contrived. If Baron Cohen doesn’t have a joke that plays off of shocking you with its political incorrectness, he resorts to biological humor of varying kinds. I’ll let your mind fill in the blanks. There were occasional laughs here and there (it does throw jokes at you every ten seconds or so), but on the whole I was not entertained.

Obnoxious, occasionally offensive, but most of all, unfunny.

D

31 thoughts on “The Dictator

  1. I didn’t think this one was going to be that good. Had no plans on seeing it. Although, there was some funny parts in the previews. Probably showed the best stuff.

  2. Well, considering there was a zero point zero percent chance I was going to see this movie, I’m going to say this confirms my opinion! lol

    I should admit I’m one of the 0.0001% of the population who loved Da Ali G show, but hated Borat. In sketch comedy form, in smaller doses I thought Sasha Cohen was pretty funny, but in the translation to the big screen he became hateful, mean, and truly awful. I walked out on Borat about 3/4s of the way through and never regretted it for a moment. This is a prime example of what I was talking about in the “Theater vs. Home” thread yesterday. There are some movies where everyone else is laughing and you are embarrassed to be part of the same species. Borat was one of those for me. I’m perfectly happy to go see Sasha Cohen in Sweeney Todd, or Hugo, but not in one of THESE films, if you know what I mean.

    • You have less than 0.0% possibility of enjoying this movie then, Gelf… you were right to stay away. If you didnt like Borat, you’ll hate this. And you wouldnt be wrong, I found this pretty bland at best, and reprehensible in a couple of moments, so… Yeah. Just steer clear.

  3. Thanks for this review. I thought Borat was pretty hilarious – only because Sacha Baron Cohen had to constantly think on his feet and stay in character. Cohen scripted, however, doesn’t seem like he would be that funny. He should stick to what he does best. Improv.

    Great review, thanks for saving me 10 bucks.

    • Exactly. Thats what I loved about Borat, too.

      Obviously, this doesnt have any of that, but it does have the same racist, misogynist humor. Without being very funny. So… I wasnt happy with it. You know, everyone can get different mileage, its batting a surprisingly decent Rotten Tomatoes score.

  4. Sad to hear it wasn’t funny at all. The trailer feels uninspired so I’m not totally surprised. Too bad, I wanted this to be as awesome as Borat. Maybe a rental for me I guess. Good review Fogs!

    • Thanks, Cap. Yeah. On this one the trailers are pretty indicative of the final product. So if you thought the trailers were uninspired? I’d be willing to bet you’ll feel the same way about the movie. It’s a bummer. I think we’re all waiting for him to recapture the Borat magic… Where’s our sequel to THAT?

  5. I think you nailed it. When scripted it’s just not as funny. I was a huge fan of his HBO series and the character of Ali G. When they did the Ali G movie, it just wasn’t as funny when they didn’t have those genuine WTF moments from real people. I think he’s so well known now that they just can’t send him out in character to get those moments anymore.

  6. When I saw this announced the first thing that popped in my mind; ‘one trick pony.’ Its a lot like lightening, you can get it to sometimes strike once but to strike twice in the same place, not so much. Thanks Fogs for confirming my suspicion.

    • Yeah, it seemed a little like he was trying to retread the same material, just in a scripted format.

      Basically using a super racist backwards thinking cretin to illuminate situations. Didnt pull it off in my opininon though. Audiences either apparently. Last I checked its Cinema Score was a C. Thats rough…

    • Could surprise you… I mean, comedy is tough to standardize. What may be funny to you may not be funny to me, you know? Its not one of the worst movies ever or anything… (shrugs)

  7. Nice write up; Sure, it’s all of those things – sexist, homophobic, rude, etc – but isn’t that kind of the point, not to mention what SBC has been doing since “Borat”? It’s a rub-your-face-in-it style of satire. Not a great film though, you’re right!

    • That’s the point, yes. And if it had been funny, I would have had no issues… but when it doesnt work, what are you left with Colin, you know?

      Plus, even if that’s your intent, there is such a thing as poor taste, and a couple of things here were just really in poor taste. That video game was pretty reprehensible… to me

  8. Yeah, this looked surprisingly bad based on the trailer alone. I’ll probably give it a shot anyway since I liked Borat (and Bruno, to a lesser extent), but I won’t go into it with high expectations.It sounds like Cohen should stick to the unscripted stuff.

  9. Wow, is D your lowest grade ever?? It’s really not much of a surprise to me that it wasn’t so good. I wasn’t a fan of Borat, I found it highly offensive & although I don’t offend easily, I did not find it funny enough to get past the offensiveness. I was never planning on seeing Dictator and between your review and watching Sacha Baron Cohen’s in character as Admiral General Aladeen in an interview on George Stroumboulopoulos, that decision has been pretty much solidified. Thanks Dan for muddling through bad films for our benefit!

    • No, I’ve given Fs. Theyre just pretty rare I guess.

      But stick around. I just sat through “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and if I can make it through the night without slitting my throat, tomorrow’s gonna have a REAL bad review…

  10. Wasn’t impressed by the trailers but read a lot of positive(ish) reviews so was getting my hopes back up. Now I’m deeply confused. Will have to go see this and make up my own mind!

    • I think it’s going to be one of those divisive movies, Pete. For example, it was at like 66% on Rotten Tomatoes (2/3 critics…) Which surprised me, so I started scrolling through all the blurbs. And this is one of those cases where half the blurbs for the Fresh votes read like they were Rotten.

      I dunno, I didnt care for it, but I can see how some people might, I guess.

  11. Admiral General Aladeen’s favorite movies? “Beheading Private Ryan” and “When Harry Kidnapped Sally”! I much rather see those than “The Dictator”!

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