The Dictator

18 Nov

Director: Larry Charles

Writers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg

Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris and Ben Kingsley

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 83 minutes

 

 

The dedication for this film is to the late Kim Jong Ill. The last time that dictator made me laugh out loud in a movie was in the brilliant 2004 comedy “Team America”. That’s an appropriate link as this film also looks to satirise modern geo-politics and to laugh at the hypocrisy embedded in western foreign policy. As a Sacha Baron Cohen film it does so with big laughs and in a highly non-pc manner (which reflects what Trey Parker and Matt Stone did with their puppets 8 years ago).

After playing a small-time street gansta (Ali G), an idiotic political envoy (Borat) and a hyper camp fashionista (Bruno), Baron Cohen this time is General Aladeen, the ruler of the rogue North African state of Wadiya. Aladeen is one part Saddam Hussein and one part Colonel Gaddafi. He rules with an iron fist, has a desire for nuclear weaponry, splashes cash on western vices and has a line of stand-in doubles for those trickier engagements. During the film’s first 15 minutes, as we are introduced to the dictator, there are some wonderful gags. The hit frequency once Aladeen gets to New York to address the UN diminishes slightly, but it is amusing throughout.

In New York, as the result of scheming by his not so loyal uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley), Aladeen is stripped of his title, shorn of his beard and thrown on to the street. The pauperized ex-ruler seeks solace in Brooklyn as opposed to Queens which harboured Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem in rather similar circumstances in 1988 (“Coming to America”). Aladeen takes shelter in a vegan market run by the very pc Zoey (a perfectly cast Anna Faris) where his dictatorial approach quickly upsets colleagues and shoppers alike.

This is a very funny film. It is short, sharp and entertaining. It does borrow from films such as “Team America” and “Coming to America” and there is a sense of Mike Myers in some of the set ups. It’s not original as such, but Baron Cohen pushes the odd boundary, openly questions the US approach to countries such as Iraq and is typically unafraid of bad taste (as per the birthing scene on the floor of the market). He is not yet and may never be a genius like Peter Sellers, but Baron Cohen is a fine comedic actor with a knack for fully embodying the most ludicrous of characters.

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