There’s a little “ditty” on Steve Martin’s comedy album “Let’s Get Small”. One lyric from it is: “Be tasteless, rude and offensive.”
That’s the formula Sacha Baron Cohen has applied in making his latest film, The Dictator.
It is terribly tasteless, ridiculously rude and obnoxiously offensive. And the formula works like a charm.
Welcome to “Wadiya,” home of Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen (Sasha Baron Cohen). He rules with an iron fist in such an over the top way that the audience’s laughter begins almost immediately and takes place with great regularity through the entire 83 minutes of the film, including some hilarious outtakes in the closing credits. If there is a major flaw with The Dictator, it’s that it is too short, and we’re cheated of another 15 to 30 minutes of laughter that we should receive as part of the admission price.
Wadiya is oil rich and the UN is very concerned that Aladeen will soon have access to a nuclear weapon. That’s not really going to happen, because Aladeen has let himself forget that with his favorite “chop/chop” motion to the neck, he’d ordered the death of the chief of the program that was developing the device.
Seems they had a difference of opinion, since Nadal had designed the nuclear missile with a round head and Aladeen wanted it pointed. Considering that the dictator has changed a large number of words to the word “Aladeen” (including positive and negative, which makes for interesting times when a doctor gives a patient the results of a major test), Nadal should have just given in to Alladeen’s desires.
There is an attempt on Aladeen’s life and it appears he’s been shot in the head and killed. But borrowing from the James Bond franchise, Aladeen had arranged for a lookalike “double” to stand in for, and die in his place. Naturally he orders that another double be created, and the choice this time is clearly not the brightest bulb in the bin.
To allay the fears of the world, Aladeen travels to New York City to address the UN, with his right hand man, Tahir (Ben Kingsley). Tahir has arranged special security for Aladeen on this trip, in addition to his usual retinue of female bodyguards who wear matching stark uniforms on the outside and some deliciously naughty undies beneath. This security man kidnaps Alladeen in the middle of the night at Tahir’s direction and to ensure that Aladeen can’t reclaim his rightful position as ruler of Wadiya, Aladeen’s trademark beard (supposedly it’s flammable) is shaved off so he is unrecognizable.
But Aladeen manages to get free and make his escape.
He tries to get to the U.N. to make his speech, now clothed in garments he took from a homeless person, but security won’t let him get anywhere near the building. He meets Zoe (Anna Faris) as she is there with a bunch of anti-Aladeen demonstrators and she just takes him for another displaced Wadiyan who is protesting his former nation’s leader. When Aladeen tries to get past security, he is stopped and rescued by Zoe before he can be arrested.
He must find a way to get back and replace the dumb double that Tahir has standing in for him before five days pass, at which time the double will sign a new Constitution, granting democracy to all of Wadiya, and allowing Tahir to sell off the nation’s valuable oil and other assets to other nations.
Cohen’s humor is honest, direct, and if taken the wrong way, could be highly offensive. The comments made by Aladeen are racist, sexist and the best that can be said about his use of bodily functions as humor in this film is that unlike in Borat, none of the credits make reference to someone else who provided Mr. Cohen’s feces for use on screen (trivia nuts out there will remember that it was Jason Alper, who I think got a mention in The Dictator credits as well, although I can’t remember what for right this second). BTW, the film is loosely based on a novel “Zabibah and the King”, supposedly written by a dictator named Saddam Hussein. Go figure.
There’s a terrific moment when Aladeen is making a speech about how America should consider becoming a dictatorship because then 1% of the population could control the wealth, the dictator could cut taxes on the rich and help them get richer, the media could be controlled and limited, and those who are poor would be unimportant. Made a lot of the folks watching and laughing both pay attention, and laugh more.
Go see The Dictator. Laugh and have a good time.