http://www.innovativecommunications.tv “The Dictator” is no “Borat”-but is that good or bad? I’m Keith Kelly, and my thoughts on this film are coming up right now.
Sacha Baron Cohen has a talent for being outrageous. I never saw the Ali G Show, but first came to know Cohen’s talents in the crazy adventures of his character Borat. Yes “Borat” was gross, crass and way out there, but it was also a very funny film, if you were in the mood for that sort of low-brow comedy. The best part of that movie was the pseudo-documentary method in which it was filmed. Borat, a stranger in a strange land, interacted with real-life Americans, and the movie captured their shocked reactions to his antics. It also slyly exposed other people’s prejudices and fears. Borat was funny because we were in on the joke.
In “The Dictator” director Larry Charles steps out from the formula of his Borat and Bruno films, and instead crafts a more mainstream, “R” rated comedy. It’s still gross, outrageous and offensive, but it’s not as funny without the real-life responses. It’s like “Punk’D” but without the hidden cameras. The Dictator character himself is also a little harder to love.
The style of this film reminded me of the “Scary Movie” parodies of a few years back. Maybe it’s because of the casting of Anna Faris as the female lead and love interest, but the acting, tone and style of this film was much the same. I never paid to see any of the Scary Movie films in the theatre, but chuckled along to them at home on my movie channel. I almost wished I had stayed home for “The Dictator”-almost.
One thing Sacha Baron Cohen has going for him is he is fearless in his comedy, and get’s 100% invested in his characters. In his latest film, he plays the bizarre dictator of an oil-rich country. His character takes on all of the bad traits of the world’s worst dictators, and roles them into one-but for comedic purposes.
What the Dictator and Cohen’s other broad characters share in common is their little boy qualities. Haffaz Alladeen is nothing more than a big, bearded 7 year old, running his country the way any totally spoiled, pampered rich kid would. In his world, the word “no” doesn’t exist. This is the basis for the comedy in this film-and most of its funniest moments. I guess for me the big difference between his Borat and Dictator characters is innocence vs. clueless. Borat was sexist, racist and an idiot-but at heart he was an innocent looking for love. In “The Dictator” Haffaz Alladeen is so self-centered he is nearly unlikeable. Outrageous yes, but almost totally unredeemable because he is not an innocent at heart, but more of a mean, clueless jerk.
That’s not to say that clueless jerks can’t be funny-but the jokes become more situational instead of coming from true characters. The laughs in this film derive mostly from their shock value instead of any clever writing and will wear thin on repeat viewers. If you’re a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen, there is plenty here for you to enjoy, but otherwise the film’s general mean-spiritness, and uneven gag-based pacing might make you wish you waited for the DVD.
I give “The Dictator”, directed by Larry Charles, a grade of “B-”. I’m Keith Kelly.
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