“The Dictator” Movie Review

     The movie going public has been fooled again.  Yet another would be comedy falling short of expectations by stuffing anything of significance in the trailer, leaving nothing new for the paying audience to laugh at.  Sasha Baron Cohen, the brilliant British comedian responsible for “Ali G” and “Borat”, is back with his latest offering, “The Dictator”.  While abandoning the “mockumentary” style used in “Borat” and the awful “Bruno”, “The Dictator” sticks with a similar “fish out of water” formula but is an entirely fictional story.  That may ultimately be its biggest downfall because when Cohen is in character and is able to convince someone he is that character, he has consistently been able to create some of the funniest bits I have ever seen.  I suspect “The Dictator” would’ve failed either way since the character , unlike “Borat”, gains no sympathy from the audience simply because of his nature.

     For sure, Cohen and his frequent collaborator Larry Charles put an enormous amount of time and energy into the creation of the vile Admiral General Aladeen, who is a mash up of Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, and Kim Jong-il whose namesake is given a dedication at the beginning of the film.  Every dictator like cliche is used in constructing the character, as well as the sets he occupies, none of which appear to be lived in and are as lavish and over the top as you would expect with this type of fare.  Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn’t spend nearly as much time thinking about the story which their well thought out character would be occupying. 

     The film’s plot is a recycling maneuver based on your standard Cohen movie.  Aladeen, the ruler of the fictitious country Wadiya, determines he needs to attend a United Nations conference in New York City to proclaim his defiance in front of a world audience.  His second in command, Tamir (played by Ben Kingsley), has secretly plotted against his boss by arranging for his kidnapping and execution at the hands of American hit men posing as a security detail.  Aladeen escapes, but not before his assailant shaves off his trademark Castro like beard; thereby, making him unrecognizable.  While attempting to enter the UN dressed as a vagrant, Aladeen catches the eye of a protester outside named Zoey (Anna Faris) who rescues him to safety. 

     Zoey doesn’t realize who she’s taking in and gives Aladeen a job in her Vegan grocery store.  This sets up a number of those fish out of water scenes where Aladeen is forced to work for a living and of course he doesn’t do very well.  Whereas these scenes in “Borat” and “Bruno” were unscripted and seemed to at least have some comic value, the sketches here play like reruns and anything that is remotely funny was already seen in the film’s trailer.  Aladeen continues working for Zoey once he finds out she has the catering contract for the UN event in which his double is going to give a speech indicating Wadiya is going to adopt democracy.  At that point, the third act is merely your standard race against time as to whether or not a character we don’t like and are not cheering for will expose the evil Tamir’s plan to overthrow him.

     Sadly, the film’s climactic moment is merely a set up for Cohen to throw some political rhetoric our way as he compares the United States current government with  that of a dictatorship.  As I said, we’ve been fooled!  We paid for a comedy and we’re left with this?  A British guy’s take on why America is nothing more than a dictatorship?  Politics aside, Cohen has failed miserably with this outing.  I thought his supporting role as the train station Inspector in “Hugo” was a quality turn for a guy famous for gross out gags and male nudity.  He has taken a huge step back with “The Dictator” and it’s hard to imagine him making a film like this again. 

     I guess when these guys try to create an original character, they sometimes forget that character has to anchor an interesting story as well.  When Mike Myers created “Austin Powers” he hit a home run.  When he created “The Love Guru”, he failed.  “The Dictator” is Sasha Baron Cohen’s “Love Guru”, except Cohen has now had two costly flops in a row.  Mike Myers has yet to recover from his debacle.  I guess the question now is where does Cohen go from here?  I do; however, find it quite funny that Megan Fox is still able to find work in movies playing a whore. GRADE: F