Review: The Dictator
Sacha Baron Cohen is not for everybody. His particular brand of humor aims to offend and at times can lean towards the juvenile. The Dictator has more than your average comedy’s worth of gross out gags and raunchy humor. It’s sure to turn off a lot of viewers. But it also has more than your average comedy’s worth of satire and, dare I say, intelligence to keep it afloat.
Beat to beat The Dictator is an incredibly funny movie, proving that Cohen can craft a humorous character and universe without exploiting everyday simpletons. It’s a loose string of often-hilarious set pieces, 85% of which work to much comic effect. When you take a step back and examine The Dictator as a piece of storytelling things get a little more hairy (pun intended). The love story and many of the plot details are completely throw away, serve little purpose and barely make sense. Not that it matters though when the filler is as laugh-out-loud as much of this is. (Honorable mentions should be given to several running gags and the soundtrack.)
Larry Charles and Cohen managed to stick every funny person they could find into what turns out to be a large cast. Comedy fans will be delighted at the sheer number of cameos in almost every scene. Jason Mantzoukas though, steals the movie. His talents have gone unrecognized for too long and his turn here is top notch; you’d almost wish you could hear he and Cohen banter all day long. Their (what I’m assuming are) improvs are that funny. Anna Faris, on the other hand, is unremarkable and bland.
For all of its low brow humor, The Dictator feels fresh, relevant, and utterly satirical. Cohen chops and blends bits of current events and dictator-lore into a reflective persona that serves its over-the-top purpose. The underlying satire keeps it from dipping into Mike Meyers or Adam Sandler territory, while reminding us of Cohen’s past bites at society.
All of this reaches climax in a wondrously executed monologue where Cohen turns the Dictator’s mirror on the US and the image is just as ugly as it was on his TV show. Of course this is followed by a nonsensical, motivation-less ending. Because you can’t win ‘em all.