August 3, 2012
A gross-out democratic venture
Following the comedic paths of his unorthodox fictional characters in the mockumentaries Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Bruno, The Dictator brings Sacha Baron Cohen back to his dumb, gross-out form as he portrays the role of Admiral General Aladeen, the childishly eccentric, ruthless, and egotistical leader of the oil-rich North African nation of Wadiya. Summoned by the United Nations to address concerns about his beloved country's nuclear program, he goes to the United States with his entourage, but the trip goes awry.
The story explores his lecherous, misogynous, anti-western and anti-semitic life as a dictator and how he risks himself to prevent democracy from invading his oppressed country and ensure that Wadiyan oil is never sold to the international market.
Apart from starring in the lead role, Baron Cohen serves as producer and co-writer for this fish-out-of-water comedy as well. This project helmed by Larry Charles, also the director of Borat and Bruno, is filled with the trademark buffoonery and cultural caricatures that made Baron Cohen a household name. As expected, this irreverent and anarchic work highlights many disgusting, politically incorrect, gender insensitive, and racially discriminating scenes. Like the two films before it, this one tries to validate its main actor's own gonzo comedy franchise that simply aims to entertain its mainstream patrons.
This slapstick satire is a hit-and-miss affair. Clearly, this type of offering is not meant for everyone. People can either see it as a disappointingly repulsive and mean-spirited mess or as an acceptable piece of entertainment. Some may find it as an annoying picture with an offensively ignorant bearing, while others may find it as an incisive and intelligently manipulative flick. For its main character, either the viewers love him or loathe him with the way he handles the narrative's audaciously awkward gags and faux-documentary elements.
When looking at it with a critical point of view, the film still hosts occasional misfires in between a number of tiring and memorable scenes. It is a given that the general public has already accepted its rudely invasive cultural and political bashing and thrashing. A couple of individual parts are quite funny, but its overarching storyline is not always able to keep up with the material's satiric quality. At some point, its vulgarities already feel too lazy, low-minded, and tasteless that people don't buy them anymore. Nevertheless, most of its formulaic components still benefit from its many hilarious bits of over-the-top humor, which induces adequate laugh-out loud moments for the willing audience.
From its infantile dictator jokes to its feel-good redemption turning points, this movie showcases the advantage of knowing what its presentation is ultimately required to do. Although it often insists on entertaining its spectators with a mindless display of ethnic intolerance and ridiculous segments, there are times that it still becomes a riot with its well-thought-of and carefully mounted scenes such as those from the outrageous tourist helicopter sequence. The story also includes a decent spoof of Charlie Chaplin's famous speech in The Great Dictator. Moreover, it is quite interesting to note how Aladeen details democracy's flaws with a certain witty vibe to it.
It is just but fair to give Baron Cohen, Charles, and the rest of the production team due credit for bravely presenting some of the most oppressive and distasteful subjects that people are typically hesitant to use on screen. Even though this brainless flick struggles in between its brashly and crudely funny qualities and its rehashed brand antics that are already losing a significant amount of steam, it is still worth a watch as a form of comedic diversion. It has a relatively workable tale courtesy of its engaging actors who are often immersed into their dim-witted roles. The supporting cast, particularly Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris, remarkably help in sustaining the script's gross-out gimmickry.
The Dictator features a conventional plot that works on its own terms. It may be an utterly predictable shtick, but it is not necessarily a missed opportunity. Its scattershot storytelling approach still provides a fine dose of crass hilarity for its fans. It aims to shock and offend and it rightfully does so. Overall, it is able to package itself as a wildly uneven but consistently provocative cinematic fare for the not so demanding audience.
The Dictator is now showing in theaters nationwide.
About the writer: Exposed in the different facets of media including film, TV, advertising, theater, radio, print, web, and events, Rianne is an awarded filmmaker whose film works go beyond her productions. As a young and active soul, she immerses herself in various disciplines as a director, writer, educator, and production artistdriving her to further learn and experience love and life.