For some reason I thought the new Spiderman was out, when it fact it isn’t. So this weekend I joined some friends who were going to catch The Dictator.
The Dictator stars Sasha Baron Cohen as Hafez Aladeen, the ruler of a small African country called Wadiya. The story revolves around Aladeen making a trip to America to engage with talks with UN delegates about his nuclear program. Aladeen is kidnapped by a man hired by his brother and advisor Tamir. Tamir replaces Aladeen with a body double, in order to free Widaya from his brother’s clutches and make it a democracy (which will also allow Tamir to sell off the rights to Wadiya’s various oil assets). Aladaeen must figure out a way to reclaim his stolen identity, while he learns more about himself in the great democracy that is the U S of A.
While Cohen’s previous movies have been a mix of narrative and “candid” camera styles, Cohen decides to takes a step back from his candid camera work to do a movie that is pure fiction. Where Cohen could get away with certain problems in his previous movies due to the fact that it involved candid camera scenes, in a movie that is pure narrative, it’s a little less forgiving.
So does the story in The Dictator work as a movie? No.
Does it work as a weak excuse to string a bunch of skits and jokes together. Yes.
I laughed. At times I was even slapping my knee (now I know where the phrase comes from). Be warned though, the humour is mostly low brow/toilet humour. In many ways it’s trying to be like South Park: The Movie, which mixes toilet humour and social commentary to actually deliver a thought provoking message, but ends up, at best, being like some of South Park’s average episodes. Unlike the better episodes of South Park which actually make you think about issues that are relevant to America or society in general, the only bit of social commentary that’s vaguely thought provoking comes right at the end of the movie. Otherwise Sasha does his best to mock hippies, feminists, black people, Jews, Arabs, women, and just about any other group that he can fit somewhat logically into the movie.
The acting in this movie is what you’d expect: Cohen becomes his character, and everyone else does a pretty good job of backing him up. No one is going to win any awards for it, but no one is going to mocked for their performances either. The fact that it’s not shot candid style means that there’s plenty of room for error and re-shoots, unlike his previous films where certain scenes weren’t scripted. This does take away some of the appeal that his earlier movies had.
The soundtrack for this movie was actually quite interesting. Famous songs are taken and given an Arabic twist, which obviously help add to the tone of the movie. It’s a nice touch, but not one that helps cover the movies other glaring flaws.
Movie rating: It’s funny if you like low brow humour. Don’t waste your time if you didn’t like Borat and Bruno, since you’ll most likely find this movie offensive.