Friday, June 1, 2012

The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen further drifts into irrelevance with yet another character study meant to offend and gross out its audience.  This time playing the leader of an oil-rich North African country of Wadiya, Cohen again fully immerses himself into a cartoonish buffoon parodying social norms and politics of the western world.  However, in The Dictator, the joke is fully out of steam.  While in previous characterizations of Ali G., Borat and Bruno, Cohen brilliantly went there, consistent in shape and size of his massive cartoons alienating innocent bystanders along the way, as Aladeen, Cohen takes the formally scripted approach for the first time (Cohen shares writing credits with Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer; Borat's Larry Charles directs) and the result stifles the free associative grooves of the past.  The other problem is that Aladeen feels hardly constructed at all, instead just a hit and miss patch-up of ridiculous cliches filtered through an uneven accent.

While The Dictator fulfills its quotient of scatological, sexist, racist and all consuming offensive humor (yet again, Cohen gives his genitals screen time), there's little bite or sting, for the shots seem cheaper and thornier than ever before.  We first meet Aladeen enjoying his stupidly rich existence, extolling the pleasures of his nuclear program.  He joyfully orders insubordinates executed and engages in one of favorite hobbies of bedding famous celebrates and chronicling them on a Polaroid Wall of Fame (Megan Fox makes a game cameo), but really, deep down, behind all the war crimes he's most proud, Aladeen wants someone to hold.  That's the best plot description for the insipid sight gags that make up the majority of The Dictator, which grow tiring before the first reel.  Legitimate thespians (like Ben Kingsley, John C. Rielly and Anna Faris) make up a supporting cast, most of whom floundered by the scripted shapelessness of the film.

After arriving in New York to abhor his dictatorial triumphs, Aladeen is back stabbed by his duplicitous older brother (Kingsley) and mistaken for a Wadiyan dissident by a feminist tree- huger (Faris), who the rape-loving Aladeen begins to have, shudder, feelings for.  All of which makes for a strange bedfellow of genres: political parody meets fish out of water romantic comedy; neither of which are particularly inspired.  Even more so is the treacly climax which proves that even international war criminals can be redeemed by the love of a good woman.  C-

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