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Sacha Baron Cohen is best known for his comedy creations Ali G and Borat but he has for a number of years been working in Hollywood and producing simple yet funny comedies and this is another to add to his collection.
The film sees Cohen playing the role of a dictator named Aladeen who is battling to ensure that his country the Republic of Wadiya is not going to fall into the ways of having a democracy. His rule is much hated by the UN who are disgusted and alarmed by his intention to continue to develop weapons which ends up with him visiting New York in order to attend a UN hearing but when when his own internal top brass decide to try to simply push him aside and to use a lookalike to replace him is it the end for Aladeen?
The film is not one set out to deliver on high-brow laughs and with it being a Sacha Baron Cohen film you know what to expect but this is a really well worked film. The fact for many that the dictator seems so ridiculous and over the top is made all the scarier when people discover this is not such an outlandish idea of what many dictators are actually like in that they oppress their people whilst living the most over the top and decadent lifestyles imaginable. I think that the film manages to deliver great comedy and a story that makes sense well thanks to a great cast with Anna Faris once again for me doing a brilliant job in a genre suited to her.
Overall this is a film that is funny and well thought out but for some people it will be just too dumbed down to really be enjoyable so it is one of those films to go into with low expectations and the hope is you will then come out having been impressed rather than going into it with high expectations and coming out disappointed.
Star - Sacha Baron Cohen
Genre - Comedy
Run Time - 83 minutes
Country - US
Rental - £3 a night@Blockbusters
Amazon - £9.99 to buy
So, 'The Dictator', Sacha Baron Cohen's latest but not the faux documentary style that upset the Americans so much last time around by exposing just how dumb and gullible they can be, here a more traditional satire for all. Everyone knows who Cohen is out there now and so he had to do what Ricky Gervais did in his Hollywood debut and create a caricature of his previous successes to feed off the same laughs but not offend so much, Ricky's lead character in the enjoyable film 'The Invention of Lying', all but David Brent the dentist, as Cohen's General Aladeen is Borat's nasty Uncle.
As with Steve Coogan when he started chasing Hollywood you knew it was the beginning of the end of his career when he did that hybrid self aware version of Alan Partridge in the Parole Officer, fittingly finishing up as a three inch high figure in Night of the Museum. Its really a confession of saying this is all I have, an impressionist that does acting; I'll take what I can get and sell out from being an intelligent comic. I don't think it's quite over for Sacha Baron Cohen but you just knew his next film after the hilarious Borat and Bruno would be a simple send up of the War on Terror, as is The Dictator, playing on that thing where, as a North London Jewish boy, he is chuckling away inside on playing a Muslim character making Jewish jokes at the perception Americans have of those steretypes.
= = = The Cast = = =
Sacha Baron Cohen........ as President Aladeen
Sacha Baron Cohen ...as body-double Efawadh
Anna Faris.... as Zoey
Ben Kingsley..... as Tamir
Jason Mantzoukas...... as Nada
John C. Reilly..... as Clayton
Sayed Badreya.....as Omar
Edward Norton..... as himself
Megan Fox...... as herself
= = = The Plot = = =
President Aladeen of the North African Republic of Wadiya is having trouble with the United Nations, the childish, lecherous, misogynous, anti-western and anti-Semitic and magnificently bearded despot refusing to allow Wadiyan oil to be sold internationally. If he doesn't stop enriching uranium to make nuclear weapons (with pointy ends) the American led coalition will attack to get that oil flowing, Iraqi style. Autocrat Aladeen is in total control of his country and rallying the people and what he says goes, literally, even rewriting the language so his name, Aladeen, means both "positive" and "negative".
Doctor: Do you want the Aladeen news or the Aladeen news?
Patient: The Aladeen news?
Doctor: You're HIV-Aladeen.
His uncle and trusted advisor, Colonel Tamir (Ben Kingsley), suggest he goes to America to address the UN to try and stop the war by making some concessions. But the Colonel betrays him and the general is kidnapped in Manhattan and replaced by an idiot body double, Efawadh (Sacha Baron Cohen), who is told by Tamir to read a new speech declaring that Wadiya will become a democracy and oil will be sold to the west.
Alone and beardless after his torture and kidnapping in New York, Aaldeen stumbles upon his old chief missile scientists, 'Nuclear Nada' (Jason Mantzoukas), who Aladeen thought he had killed for not putting those 'pointy' ends on his warheads. It turns out all those he had put to death are not, the conspiracy wider than he thought.
With the help of a feminist called Zoey (Anna Farris), who Aladeen meets at an anti Aladeen rally at the UN, she not recognizing him without his beard, he is put back on his feet through working at her Vegan, feminist not for profit free earth collective, operating within an anti-racist, anti-oppressive framework for people of all or no genders, not exactly an appropriate place for Aladeen.
When the general promises to give Nada his nuclear job back to complete his warheads, Nada agrees to help the General get power back, Zoey still none the wise who the man she is beginning to fancy is. But the question is how does he get into the UN without his beard and big generals hat and medals?
Like 'Ali G in the House', when Cohen steers away from the 'mockumentry' it doesn't quite have the same comedy effect and knowing impact and the whole thing becomes more infantile, as is the case with The Dictator. But that's not to say its not good fun and although some unneeded puerile moments and knob gags I still laughed now and then. Most Americans are not quite as clever as we are and so they need their comedy and gags spelt out more and a trail of breadcrumbs through the plot and so this is more their type of thing. They hate to be made to look silly in films as smart as Borat and Bruno and just don't like the complication of irony in comedy that leaves them open mouthed and gormless with confusion, catching those flies, and so this Cohen's apology for those two movies.
Director Larry Charles, he off Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bruno, is the man behind the camera here and can claim his biggest success to date, the $65 million budget grossing $177 million back, a decent success for a comedy without those big American romcom Gods and Goddesses in it. Not that Cohen as ever going to cast Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd! That sort of money is encouraging for maybe another big Hollywood budget foray into comedy for Cohen.
Fearing that multiplex blowback from sending up unsuspecting Americans so brilliantly in Bruno and Borat, Cohen spent a lot of money publicizing this film, and in his own unique and bombastic way, memorable dumping the 'alleged' ashes of Kim Jong-ill's on the 84th Academy Awards host Ryan Seacreast in the lobby on live TV, which resulted in Cohen, dressed as the General and accompanied by two female body guards, Gaddafi style, being banned from the rest of the prestigious evening. Tom Cruise was set to be seated behind him and would not have seen much of the action behind that big hat and uniform.
It's not worth putting you of this as you are going to rent it anyway and if you like Cohens stick then you will enjoy enough of this to justify the rent. But don't expect anything as good as his previous highbrow send up stuff. I wish there had been some belly laughs like his previous movies but this aimed more at a wider audience, and you don't get wider than Americans. But this is top end satire to Americans they are that starved of it. It is, however, way better than Ali G in the House, that seemed to be made for 12-year-old chav's to flick their fingers to, init!
= = = Ratings = = =
Imdb.com - 6.5\10.0 (87,114 votes)
Rottentomatos.com - 58% critic's approval
Metacritc.com -58% critic's approval
= = = Critics = = =
The Daily Telegraph - 'Both the laughter and the satire had crawled off and quietly died'.
The New Yorker -'The film has a vicious edge that the Marx Brothers didn't have, and it's too low-minded to achieve their enchanting blend of anarchy and surrealism'
USA Today - 'While tastelessness is rampant and the humor uneven, The Dictator also has its moments of slyly clever satire'.
Variety Magazine - 'The publicity stunts for promoting The Dictator were funnier than the actual movie'
The Movie News - 'A few laughs here and there at the expense of offensive stereotypes.
The Times -'It doesn't expose stupidity. That's what Cohen has done absolutely wonderfully in the past with his other characters. Now he's just acting stupid, with only some funny results.
= = = = = = = = = = =
= Special Features =
= = = = = = = = = = =
I went for this longer version over the theatrical option here
-Deleted & Extended scenes-
Quite a few and rightfully deleted.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
I am not actually a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen's films; I watched Ali G Indahouse once upon a time, never watched Borat and I think I had Bruno on as background noise a year or so ago, but his taste in humour isn't necessarily right up my street. Nevertheless my partner BEGGED to see this at the cinema earlier this year and we never got round to it, so when my colleague came into work raving how funny her and her other half found it, she borrowed me the DVD telling me I would "piss myself with laughter". So I took it home, and we sat down and watched it and lets's just say I am still waiting to laugh out loud!
The plot line follows Sacha Baron Cohen as Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen, a "ruthless" dictator of Wadiya, a fictional place in North Africa. Upon visiting the United States his body double impersonates him as he is stripped of his leadership and made to look like an immigrant and he ends up working in a health food store with many others he thought he had "executed" during his time in power. As his body double - influenced by his uncle Tamir who was the rightful heir as leader of Wadiya - wants to impose democracy and a new constitution in Wadiya, Aladeen must fight to get back in control and regain his tyranny. Supposedly this is when comedy ensues.
To me this had a few moments when I smiled to myself but it was not anywhere near as funny or hilarious as everyone around me made it out to me! After about 20 minutes or so I literally had it on as background noise and practically tuned out as I did not find it interesting or stimulating. I am by no means a prude or anything, and can take all kinds of humour in good jest (I mean I don't take offence to family guy or anything, in fact I love the cartoon!) but I did feel a lot of the jokes were a bit tasteless and slightly racist. Nothing I was upset or offended by, don't get me wrong but just not my cup of tea. I also feel perhaps some people from an Islamic background may take some offence to a lot of the material in this film too but I am sure it is nothing less than Cohen's intention to be offensive and controversial in his stereotyping throughout the entire film.
Anna Faris (the annoying girl in the "Scary Movie", "Epic Movie" etc category) plays his love interest Zoey a western, political activist who is of course rooting for Wadiya to become a democracy. She is good at being her usual dopey self, trying to portray a role in which she is pretty much stupid and spoofing (if that's a word!) the normal fad films that the film she is in is taking the mick out of. I felt she was her normal average acting performance in her role at being cliche and as soon as I spotted her I didn't really have much hopes for a ground breaking, oscar winning performance so this in turn could have induced some of my boredom and why my brain switched off lol.
Overall I thought this was the usual, not particularly funny film churned out by Sacha Baron Cohen. I was disappointed as I did hope for a few laughs but most of them just seemed a bit dry, and maybe a bit more male orientated. My other half laughed his head off like an idiot at some parts but he even said it wasn't as funny as he expected. It has a runtime of 95 minutes for the extended version (which apparently has extra footage not included in the cinema version) and 80 minutes for the theatrical version. There are some "outrageous deleted and extended scenes" which to be honest we didn't even watch as I was glad when it was over and switched the DVD off! It is rated 15 which I think is apt due to some nudity, and language used throughout. can be bought on amazon for £9.99 but I wouldn't particularly advise anyone to rush out and go buy it in a hurry, perhaps wait until it's on TV!