Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Dictator

       Be afraid. Be very afraid. Sasha Baron Cohen is back. After giving the world Ali G, Borat and Bruno, Mr Cohen adds Admiral General Aladeen to his rogue's gallery of outrageous characters. Mr. Cohen's brand of comedy is not for everyone but if you are a fan, you will definitely be amused by "The Dictator".

       There are plenty of sight gags and topical jokes abound. Many fall flat but others hit the mark and there are scenes that will have you laughing out loud as well as cringing at their offensiveness. The reason Mr. Cohen can get away with offensive material as well as the 911 references, is that, as with his other films, he makes it clear from the start that his character is an idiot and that he is clearly making fun of himself. Although the 911 reference does push the limit and while funny in the context of the film will certainly offend many.

       Aladeen's love interest is played by Anna Ferris, who for once is the "straight man" rather than the fool she has played in other films. And while she is the voice of reason here, she also gets some of the best lines. Also starring is Sir Ben Kingsley which at first is remarkable to consider. This is the man who played Gandhi but then again he also starred in "Sexy Beast" so playing the villain in "The Dictator" isn't such a stretch. When Aladeen is kidnapped and replaced by a body double,  Jason Mantzoukas, a character actor by trade, has his biggest role to date as Alladeen's conspirator in his plans to return to power.

       The "fish out of water" plot is not new but Mr. Cohen milks (literally at one point) plenty of laughs out of a powerful dictator working in a grocery co-op in Brooklyn. Many of the funniest bits you've already seen in the trailer or in the TV ads but some of them have had lines altered which makes me wonder if somebody lost their nerve. Mr. Cohen's "Borat" was truly an original. With "The Dictator", the joke's still funny but it's starting to wear thin.

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