The Dictator Movie Review
Six years after he blew audiences away with Borat and three years after destroying all goodwill he previously earned with the horrendous Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen is back with The Dictator, a very quotable movie about a racist, sexist, anti-Semitic Middle Eastern dictator who travels to New York City to talk about his plans for obtaining nuclear power before the United Nations.
"Is it a boy, or is it an abortion?"
This is the kind of thing Cohen espouses throughout The Dictator, a deeply offensive tirade against Muslims, Arabs, Jews, black people, Chinese people, white people, women, hippies and Americans. Nothing is off limits, including pedophilia, rape and torture. The Dictator should offend everyone.
It's not that different than Bruno in that regard, except for one critical different: it's actually funny.
Cohen plays his part well, ever eager to be just a little more absurd and a tad more politically incorrect than the minute before. General Aladeen is a hilarious caricature of racial stereotypes, maliciously innocent even as he revels in his [perceived] ability to execute and torture anyone who gives him a sideways glance. He's an idiot with absolute power, but deep down he means well. Well, he means to do the things he does, and that has to count for something.
Cohen is paired with Jason Mantzoukas, who plays his scheming but frustrated cohort. Though Cohen commands singular attention in every scene, Mantzoukas delivers a less overt but no less satisfying performance. He's hilarious.
Anna Faris, meanwhile, is underutilized. The funny Scary Movie actress has many jokes thrown her way at her expense, but director Larry Charles (Borat, Bruno) fails to take full advantage of her comedic talent.
As for the movie, it only falters in a few small moments. One especially awkward scene about raping young boys falls flat. There are a few other brief moments as well, but The Dictator, for the most part, walks that fine line beyond funny offensive (Borat) and obnoxious offensive (Bruno).
The Dictator isn't a perfect movie, but it's a laugh-out-loud experience that largely absolves Cohen of previous crimes.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.