Thursday, May 17, 2012
The Dictator is silly, light fun
If "The Dictator" felt a little slight to you, well don't worry, I felt the same. After all this film barely cracked 80 minutes. Still, there were plenty of hilarious moments packed in this tightly-knit film with such outrageousness that would feel out of place anywhere else but a Sacha Baron Cohen film. Somehow, he manages to mix the right amount of raunchiness and downright filthy low-brow humor with an actual story and he's so into his character that it all works. I think that's the biggest difference. Sacha is perhaps the only comedian out there right now who completely loses himself in the characters that he plays, a big reason why he's so brilliant and why his movies work.
Of course, there was only so far he could go with the mockumentary formulas of Borat and Bruno. This time he decided to go the conventional narrative route which disappointed a few, I suppose, but I personally think that The Dictator kind of helped breathe new life into the comedy genre. 21 Jump Street was another straight-up comedy that proved to be a hit with everyone, but The Dictator was perhaps an even tougher sell. Sacha Baron Cohen has to keep topping himself with character after character. Some think his characters have become less and less funny, but I really think he's been just as funny throughout. The only difference now is that he's not new anymore. We know who he is, we know what kind humorist he is, so what he does won't really shock us into laughter like it did before. The fact that The Dictator manages to be low brow and hilariously offensive without insulting anybody's intelligence should be considered an achievement compared to other comedies (Adam Sandler, I'm looking at you).
So Sacha Baron Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen, Sir Ben Kingsley plays his accomplice and right-hand man Tamir who turns out to be conspiring against the Supreme Leader this whole time. Aladeen goes to USA to make a speech in front of the UN but one of Aladeen's "body guards" (played by John C. Reilly) attempts to torture and kill him. Aladeen manages to escape the torturing, but not until after the hitman cut off his beard.
Now without his beard, he blends into the NYC crowd much more. When he tries to get back into the UN to make his speech he finds that his body double has replaced him. When he tries to jump the fence to get inside, he's hosed down which is when feminist activist Zoey (Anna Faris) finds him and takes him in.
What's fun about the movie is how it sticks to the plot formula but manages to pack in plenty of jokes no matter where the movie goes. When Aladeen finds himself falling for Zoey, it actually manages to stay funny without feeling like a typical romance subplot. In fact, there are plenty of ways this film could've gone wrong but due to strong writing and Sacha Baron Cohen's committed acting, it's always fresh and fun to watch.
It's also fun to watch just for how ridiculous the film gets at times with its low-brow humor. Amazingly, Cohen and his writers manage to come up with new and clever ways to add poop, dick, and sex jokes. Is this mind-bending, ground-breaking stuff? No, of course not, it's just funny.
If you go into The Dictator with measured expectations, you will have a great time. If you're expecting high-brow political humor, you're not necessarily going to get it. Although, there is a pretty inspired, hilarious speech Aladeen makes at the end of the film that actually made an audience member clap in the theater I was at. The Dictator definitely has a mix of all types of humor and, for the most part, it works. It may be a bit too short, it may be disappointing to see Sacha Baron Cohen in a formulaic comedy. But you know what? It's funny.