The Dictator Film Review
Director: Larry Charles.
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris.
The Dictator is a risible comedy that follows the adventures of a stereotypical dictator hell-bent on domination and superficial appearances.
Admiral General Aladeen is an egomaniacal dictator of North African country, Wadiya, who craves power. Aladeen wishes to see democracy destroyed and orders the execution of anyone who dares to oppose his will even for the most frivolous of reasons. His strong rhetoric gets him into trouble with the United Nations and he is forced to visit America to explain himself. During a visit to New York a coup d’etat occurs and a slightly mentally-challenged double takes his place.
The coup, which was organised by Aladeen’s uncle, Tamir, goes awry and Aladeen escapes minus his distinctive beard making him now unrecognisable.
Now treated like everyone else, Aladeen is taken under the wing of Zoey, a environmentally conscious caterer. He also reacquaints himself with his former nuclear scientist, Nadal who he supposedly had executed. Nadal and Aladeen hatch a plan for the dictator to reclaim power.
Many outrageous and improbably incidents occur as the villain of the story undergoes a journey of discovery and somewhat predictably falls in love with the unconventional Zoey.
‘the film suffers from elements that are overused and jokes that are continually repeated even though their comic return diminishes’
Despite some good moments the film suffers from elements that are overused and jokes that are continually repeated even though their comic return diminishes with each retelling. If ever the phrase ‘less is more’ applied to a film it is to The Dictator.
Sasha Baron Cohen’s performance as the dictator Admiral General Aladeen is mixed. He has a tendency to overdo it and goes far too-often for the reaction joke when he should simply be telling the story and letting the comedy take care of its self.
Cohen’s characterisation lacks subtlety and while such a movie may have worked in the 1980’s it certainly does not now as expectations have grown considerably. Cohen has got undoubted talent but someone needs to take him under their wing and develop this talent into something more usable.
‘We never get the sense that he is real person although that fault can be levelled at virtually every character’
Ben Kingsley plays the treacherous Tamir almost on auto-pilot. He is highly convincing at playing both the sycophantic and duplicitous personalities that comprise Tamir. Yet, he doesn’t add any depth to the character. We never get the sense that he is real person although that fault can be levelled at virtually every character in the film.
Anna Faris’s performance as Zoey is as one-dimensional as the rest of the film. Earnest to the point of caricature, Zoey doesn’t seem to be real at all.
‘when something is repeated again and again it isn’t surprising that the joke becomes extremely tiresome.’
The Dictator is a film that overplays the same jokes again and again. The fact that it uses gross-out humour frequently makes it even worse as this type of comedy depends heavily on shock-factor. When something is done unexpectedly and appears only once – the audience will not adjust. However, when something is repeated again and again it isn’t surprising that the joke becomes extremely tiresome.
Cohen has got undoubted talent but whether or not we will ever see it maximised is another question. As for The Dictator well despite some good laughs the film is a let-down in its entirety.