It would take the Supreme Leader himself to get me back into a theatre for another round of Sacha Baron Cohen’s new film, The Dictator. Like most comedies today, much is lost through the constant media barrage and trailers offering up the funniest bits out of context with the rest of the picture. It would seem that Cohen has been given a little larger budget for this film and in doing so it has lost some of the charm — or lack there of — that made Borat and Bruno unique, instead offering up advertisement for New York, a barrage of cameos and a love affair between two unlikely people.
The Supreme Leader of Wadiya, Aladeen is the last great dictator of the world. He ruthlessly disposes of comrades who challenge his authority or any who might blink in his presence. Rumours of Wadiya’s nuclear capabilities have spread to the rest of the globe forcing world leaders to call for an investigation into the matter. Hostilities continue to increase when the UN are barred from entering the country, forcing Aladeen to address his actions at a conference in New York City.
Before he is able to deliver his speech Aladeen is kidnapped and his beard shaved leaving him as just another face in NYC, while his former comrades replace him with a lookalike. Cast out, Aladeen finds work at a local co-op that is providing the food for the conference. Here he experiences love for the first time in the form of general manager, Zoey (Anna Faris). Torn by passion and power, Aladeen must choose what he values more and the consequence that Wadiya may never again be the same.
The Dictator suffers because it’s a comedy/blockbuster and not a straight comedy like Cohen and Charles’s previous collaborations. Enormous panoramic shots capture the beauty of the city but does little more. Humour is garnered through stereotypes and demonstrations of power. It seems any person, man or woman, has a price they are willing to humiliate themselves for.
The romance of Borat’s affection for Pamela Anderson was hilarious and at times heartfelt — in a very pathetic and disturbed way. In this film is just distracts from the present comedy. Jokes regarding armpit shaving to Zoey and her hippy-lifestyle fall short and tend to annoy. This is the classic story of two people who shouldn’t be together doing just that: Zoey’s free spirit and all-are-equal outlook turning the mercilessly tyrannical dictator is too absurd to convince.
But not all is a disappointment. When the comedy is on this film thoroughly entertains. Terrifyingly honest political satire permeates the core of this picture, culminating in an appalling speech regarding the positives of dictatorship and in doing takes a knife to the throat of the hypocrisy of American politics. This may not be the picture you were expecting and with Cohen’s increased popularity it’s likely he’s too recognizable to immerse himself fully as he did in Borat. Perhaps it’s time to drop expectations and open up to a new brand of Cohen films.