THE DICTATOR (2012)

Directed by: Larry Charles
Written By: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer
Cinematography By: Lawrence Sher
Editor: Greg Hayden & Eric Kissack

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Bobby Lee, Aasif Mandavi, Jason Mantzoukas, Joey Slotnick, Kevin Corrigan, Chris Elliott, Kathryn Hahn, Megan Fox, Ian Roberts, Jon Glaser, Chris Parnell, Chris Gethard, Fred Armisen, J.B. Smoove 


The Republic of Wadiya is ruled by an eccentric and oppressive leader named Hafez Aladeen. Aladeen is summoned to New York to a UN assembly to address concerns about his country’s nuclear weapons program, but the trip goes awry. 


It seems most of the time the only real comedy in this film is more the shocking aspects of the material. As the regular, more comic nature gags seem like they go well on paper, but physically fall flat.

The film plays like a Saturday Night Live skit character who gets their own film But struggles to fill out the premise. So that the film feels like a collection of skits tied together with a rather thin plotline. Soon the envelope is pushed so far all the outlandish details become common. You start to wonder if anything will be considered sacred. 

Unfortunately when it comes to Sasha Baron Cohen who is a gifted comedic performer. His best ability that has so far been shown is his ability to stay in character while improvising around and off of real people not in on the joke, With hilarious awkward, and shocking moments. As others around him seem to drop their guard and open up themselves mostly to his questions and suggestions that have worked for him so far. While he has defined characters he also became more recognizable. So with small roles in other films the natural next plateau was to try to create feature films with characters though more scripted. Though try to feature the same type off the cuff comedy. With a certain looseness in the filmmaking leaving room for happy accidents. In this film he seems to be the only one allowed to do anything really funny, others try but are either cameos that go nowhere or just weak. So this film feels almost like a vanity project. 

He is funny and a good performer, but he is also better than this material. Which only seems to only be shocking to be shocking. No real reason it can’t be funny without going to such extremes. It’s like stand-up who’s act is full of offensive and shocking scenarios. Just no real jokes or sense of humor. Though everything said is supposed to be in some type of humor. Which is a shame especially when you have a cast that is full of funny actors. 

It feels like a mash-up of Different Charlie Chaplin scenarios and scenes from his films only updated badly. –It seems that Sasha Baron Cohen is the closest that we have to a modern Peter Sellers as he totally allows himself to truly be lost in character and there seems to not be any breaking and not know where one ends and where another begins. Also, his films tend to revolve not only around characters that he plays but almost exclusively around him and his character. There are other comedians and characters but most of the humor revolves around only his and others’ reactions to him. 

His previous films that play more off of hidden cameras and regular people reacting to his antics are a bit more powerful as they reflect more of a social satire with a reality. This film is more sketch than anything else scripted satire that is made to look off-kilter but is obviously more formulaic. It’s a shame as the film shows peaks of comedic brilliance and some interesting ideas that are quickly dropped for more traditional comedy in the form of just trying to make the jokes way too offensive and shock humor. 
Which seems to be on the rise in the form of comedy instead of humorous jokes and situations. Comedies seem to be more of a barometer of how much they can get away with that is off-color. There are of course exceptions, but Comedies seem to be going the way of horror with torture porn. The more shocking and graphic it seems the better. 

Like the film, it seems to be inspired by just a bit Charlie Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR it has a great speech at the end that tries to inform and send a message. It’s more didactic and not inspiring like its influence. 

The film has a love story that doesn’t work nor is it really needed, but since it seems that most films today have one whether they are needed are not have one involved in the film. Why not this one? 

Grade: D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s