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Movie Review: The Dictator (2012)

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Six years ago, comedic genius, and possibly crazed madman, Sacha Baron Cohen, burst onto movie screens with Borat. A film unleashing the most telling story of xenophobia Eli Roth could have only dreamed of in two Hostel films. Since then, he has popped up in another dementedly funny film of his own (Brüno), as well as roles in Hugo, Sweeney Todd, Talladega Nights, and as a voice in the Madagascar films. Transplanting the same hot topic hilarity used in Borat to a narrative feature, Cohen and his band of merry madmen (director Larry Charles and writers Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer), now bring us the scathing satire, The Dictator.

Opening with the funniest “In Loving Memory” possibly of all time, we find the land of Wadiya under the ruling thumb of General Admiral Aladeen (Cohen). Along with his right hand man, Tamir (Sir Ben Kingsley), he is on the verge of unleashing a weapon of mass destruction, so long as he doesn’t have to execute any more of his top scientists as happens to Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas). All because he questions Aladeen’s logic to make their WMD pointy as seen in his beloved Daffy Duck cartoons. Quickly there is an assassination attempt upon Aladeen but it was a decoy and we learn Tamir is trying to overthrow him to gain his rightful place as heir. Tamir begins to look for another attempt and urges Aladeen to address the United Nations in New York City. Aladeen is then kidnapped by a racist security guard (John C. Reilly) who de-beards Aladeen and winds up lighting himself on fire prompting Aladeen’s escape.

On the streets of New York, no one recognizes Aladeen without his precious beard and Tamir has already replaced him with a new double in place to deliver a message inciting democracy to the land of Wadiya. But first Aladeen must go on the time-honored comedic fish-out-of-water misadventures which makes him meet up with Zoey (Anna Faris), a radically leftwing feminist who runs a local indiscriminate health food store that specializes in taking in political refugees. Soon Aladeen finds out that his entire regime has been a lie when he runs into Nadal who lives in Little Wadiya where everyone Aladeen thought he had executed now peacefully live waiting to have their turn with him if they ever run into him again. Aladeen and Nadal hatch a plan to return Aladeen to his rightful place and stop the democracy from spreading to his oppressed nation.

While Brüno had its share of moments, they were spread too far and few between. Thankfully, The Dictator returns Cohen to his Borat glory days. Director Larry Charles throws every joke at you as fast as possible and nearly every one of them sticks. The rapid-fire pace is reminiscent of the ZAZ style from their Airplane, Top Secret, and Naked Guns days. The funniest scenes involving a touristy helicopter ride, an extended birthing sequence, and what Aladeen thinks to be the decapitated head of Morgan Freeman. It also has a hilarious soundtrack featuring Indian-styled versions of famous pop songs. And the final speech Aladeen addresses to the UN may very well be one of the most hysterical rants put on film in who knows how long. Long story short, The Dictator is the must-see comedy of the summer.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.