The Dictator

DIRECTOR: Larry Charles

CAST: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris

RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes




General Aladeen and aladat offensive talk. Yes, that poor example of wordplay is not funny. But I’ll tell you what is: this movie.

Full disclosure, I’ve never found any of Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters funny. Borat was too gimmicky, Bruno was forgettable at best and after his attempt at bringing the do-rag (skull cap) back, I would prefer Ali G stay “in da house” as long as it means that he won’t be in mine.

The Dictator is the actor’s first fully scripted comedy and with General Haffaz Aladeen, Baron Cohen almost hits the despot jackpot. Some parts are laugh-out- loud funny, crude, undeniably and ridiculously racist, sexist – pick any -ist thing.

This comedy, which leans towards a rom-com in some instances – and especially in the lighting whenever Aladeen and his love interest, US environmentalist and activist, Zoe (Farris), are together – will offend a lot of people.

Here’s the 411. General Aladeen is the ruler of the Republic of Wadiya, a fictional state in north Africa. He is a dictator who has all the highly publicised attributes of Muammar Gaddafi (hence the gorgeous female bodyguards) and Saddam Hussein (there is a scene referenced from the toppling of Hussein’s statue) and he counts Osama bin Laden as a close friend.

“You go to the bathroom after Osama, you realise the true meaning of terrorism,” he warns.

In this film, Baron Cohen reunites with Ben Kingsley. As Aladeen, he is the bane of Tamir’s (his uncle, played by Kingsley) existence and not the brightest crayon in the box, but insists on building a nuclear weapon that is sorta kinda meant to hit Israel.

The UN is having none of this and summons Aladeen to the US to explain himself. He eventually obliges, but before he can make a speech that essentially tells the UN and the US to go stuff themselves, Tamir has Aladeen abducted and replaces the now-unrecognisable leader of Wadiya with an imbecile as an impostor.

Needless to say, Tamir doesn’t succeed in usurping Aladeen’s power and in a brilliant twist in events, the true Aladeen eventually gives a speech about democracy that is as soaked in irony as a biscuit in a cup of tea.

The film is a grand display of how one can be so blinded by the flashy things that they can’t even see when their followers deem them so ridiculous that they don’t even execute the people one wants dead.

Sure, Baron Cohen is funny and he holds a mirror up to the West who so often judge anyone who doesn’t look like them, or isn’t financially in bed with them.

Bringing a new edge to old dictator tricks are the beautiful, hyper-realistic artworks that decorate the background in many scenes. But that’s not enough to ensure Aladeen’s revered gratuitous display of opulence doesn’t get tired – we get it, you’re blood-money rich.

The script is offensive, yes: “I love it when women go to school. It’s like seeing a monkey on roller skates – it means nothing to them, but it’s so adorable to us.”

If you didn’t laugh when you read that, then maybe this film isn’t for you. Every politically correct thing you can think of is thrown right out almost as readily as General Aladeen throws out a newborn girl: “Ah,” he frowns after being elbow deep in a woman’s privates while helping her to give birth. “It’s a girl, where’s the trash can?”

That’s not all. After announcing she is with child – and between the credits rolling – Aladeen asks his new wife if she is “having a boy or an abortion?”

The Dictator is not for everyone and the parts where Aladeen’s inner Ali G comes out in a Middle Eastern version of Dr Dre’s the Next Episode will be most annoying.

But what’s probably also annoying to most is that we almost got a penis-joke-free film from Baron Cohen. Yeah, there’s a whole scene dedicated to the joys of masturbating. Well, wadiya know?

Baron Cohen can be thought-provoking and gross at the same time. Even while wearing Crocs. At least the only office where you will get to see General Aladeen is at the box office.

If you liked Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan… you may think this is funnier.