Verdict: 3 / 5
Sacha Baron Cohen rose to fame in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s for his fake personas which he used to catch famous politicians and celebrities out in many insightful and hilarious ways. With the surprise smash hit of Borat in 2006, it could almost be seen immediately that it would be impossible for Cohen to carry on in the same way; that he had become too recognizable. Despite showing himself to be a capable actor in other roles in the years to come; it was still the films he created largely himself that were his passion; and this parody of many of the political events of the present is his latest work.
Admiral General Aladeen (Baron Cohen) has ruled the fictional North African state of Wadiya for decades. After international concerns are raised about his nation’s nuclear program, Aladeen travels to New York to meet with the UN. There he is betrayed and replaced by a double; his mighty beard of state is shaved, and he is forced onto the streets of Brooklyn. From there he meets the feminist activist Zoey (Faris) and begins his attempt to retake his nation.
The Dictator has the perfect characters for what is needed; it shows that stereotypes in comedy are not necessarily bad things if used for a purpose; and that the blunt way they are portrayed somehow makes them even more effective. There is also a vast array of incredible clever lines in the film that may have the capacity to leave you clutching your sides, especially if you keep up with current events.
However, the main problem of the movie is the feeling that pages of funny lines were written; several scenes were imagined; but the way they tied together was never fully achieved as attempted. In many ways the movie feels like a connection of skits rather than a cohesive movie; with some being more effective than others. The movie is good for one viewing if you also don’t mind your humour being crude at times; and if nothing else you should find a way to view the scene near the end where Aladeen speaks on the nature of dictatorship and America; as it is a truly fine piece of satire.
Much of it is middling or embarrassing, but enough gold still shines through. Keep a special ear out for all of the pop music tracks in the movie being sung in Arabic.