Big Screen Review :: The Dictator
May 24th 2012
Nick La Rosa
The Dictator will hopefully be the end of Sasha Baron Cohen making broad mainstream comedies. It’s a stupid, desperately unfunny movie that barely holds together, showing just how badly Cohen has flamed out after displaying such promise in Borat. While that film, and its follow up Bruno were sort of mocumentaries, injecting a carefully crafted character into kinda real situations, The Dictator is a more conventional scripted comedy. This was probably inevitable, as there was only so much Cohen could plausibly pull off once he became famous, but it doesn’t mean it has to be this dumb.
You probably know the premise from witnessing every mainstream media outlet breathlessly running coverage of Cohen in character recycling most of the movies best jokes in scripted answers to pre-approved questions, but anyway, he plays Admiral General Aladeen, ruler of the fictional North African country Wadiya. While in New York to address the UN, he is stripped of his beard, replaced by a double, and must return to power before a new constitution can be signed, bringing Democracy to the country he so lovingly oppresses. All of this plays out over a barely coherent 70 odd minutes. And by barely coherent, I don’t mean that the character’s journey is implausible and its plot stupid, though of course that is the case. I mean that scenes are awkwardly edited together and barely seem to relate to each other, earning their place in the movie based on how funny they are, as opposed to how much they make sense. Which would be fine if they were funny, but they are not really.
The Dictator is relentlessly throwing jokes at the audience, but I only managed a few chuckles. Most of it is gutter level little boy stuff. The love story subplot with Anna Faris as a radical eco warrior takes up most of the film’s energy, but isn’t featured at all in the marketing. It unfolds as love stories in things like this are supposed to unfold, but without even the slightest attempt by the cast to sell it or make it even remotely plausible. It seems only included to eat up some minutes. Suggestions of subplots, and walk on appearances by actors Like John C Reilly, who clearly had a much bigger role at some stage in proceedings, give weight to rumours of a troubled shoot, and extensive re-shoots. Given some of the junk they left in, and that it is barely feature length as it is, there must have been a truly frightening first cut of the film. But all that noise isn’t really important. What is important is that The Dictator is awful. Don’t watch it.