Tag Archives: Eddie Murphy

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.

Tower Heist

18 Mar

Director: Brett Ratner

Writers: Ted Griffin (screenplay), Jeff Nathanson (screenplay), and 3 more credits

Stars: Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller and Casey Affleck

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 104 minutes

 

 

There are some dodgy old names associated with this latest Ben Stiller comedy. The director is Brett, Rush Hour 1, 2 & 3, Ratner and the other star is Eddie Murphy, an actor with a long cinematic criminal record. Having them make up a large part of the ‘talent’ on this film made me sceptical from the outset – that and the fact that Ben Stiller is hardly a reliable source of comedy gold.

The story of Tower Heist is a modern and topical take on the little guy standing up to the wealthy and bullying mogul. Stiller is the manager of an impressive residential tower block that is owned by the penthouse dwelling Alan Alda. Alda comes across as a bit Donald Trump and a bit Bernie Madoff and it is the latter resemblance that is crucial. The story turns on the unravelling of a ponzi scheme that Alda’s character has trapped Stiller and other tower employees in.

Once Stiller and his colleagues realize the chicanery of Alda they join forces and decide to rob him. That’s the cue for Murphy to enter the fray as the consultant thief and for Stiller’s misfit gang to embark on some good fun heist training. Here the movie works very well with a strong supporting cast that includes Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and Tea Leoni. Once the robbery is underway, however, the comedy is stretched a little thin.

If the great Frank Capra was alive today it is likely that he would be offered this type of ‘blue collar hero’ film to direct. He would certainly do more with it than Ratner, but Tower Heist is decent enough and not the dog that I had anticipated going in.

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