Films and That: The Dictator

I’m not sure what to think of Sasha Baron Cohen. On the one hand, he’s clearly a very talented comedian, creating many memorable and very funny characters, he clearly hates being famous, always appearing in interviews in-character, and Borat is one of the best comedy films of the last ten years. On the other hand, he’s obviously desperate for attention (the Oscar ashes spill “accident” for instance), Bruno was a travesty, and morons enjoy imitating his silly accents to the degree that I may commit murder.

So, his new film. It’s not in the style of his previous films, i.e. no fake interviews, no interacting and making fools of normal people, it’s a surprisingly straight-forward movie. Of course, it’s also about a North African despot, and is as predictably offensive as that would suggest. Many, MANY racist, sexist, anti-Semitic jokes are made, but they’re par for the course in this sort of thing, and most of them are actually quite funny, such as the Wii shooter game “Munich Olympics”,  or when a baby girl is born, he wonders where the bin is.

Sasha Baron Cohen deserves lots of credit here though, without him there would be no film.  He manages to make a crass, ignorant, selfish, murderous dictator surprisingly sweet. But that’s sort of the problem with this film. They can’t seem to decide if we should be rooting for Aladeen, or hoping he doesn’t get back in to power. There’s some sort of “moral” in there, which turns up drunk to the party about five minutes before the end and smacks the audience round the head with a “AMERICA AND CAPITALISM IS BAD” message, but it’s all rather obvious and it’s all been said and done before.

It’s the same with the offensive jokes. Several land, and I did laugh out loud (LOL) quite a lot, but it kind of feels like it’s been done before, and better. Especially the Jew jokes. I know Baron Cohen is actually Jewish, but the extent to which he takes the “Kill the Jews” stuff is actually quite worrying. Same with how much he manages to contrive ways to be intimate with other men.

The plot also seems like it’s a bit of nuisance to the scriptwriters. Yes, it is sort of pushed along every now and again, but it does seem like for the most part it’s just a collection of sketches as this character does wacky things (LOL HE’S AT A FUNERAL! LOL HE’S DELIVERING A BABY) that are held together by a weak narrative.

Ultimately, this isn’t a bad film, it has too many funny moments to be. Sasha Baron Cohen is a naturally very funny man, Anna Faris as his stereotypical, hairy armpitted, feminist love interest is extremely likeable, and if the obnoxious man in the cinema I saw it in is anything to go by, every time any one says “fuck” or “dildo”, you should be pissing yourself, I thought he was dying at one point. But there’s little to no plot here, and you shouldn’t expect anything original. This is a broad comedy, and not anything even remotely resembling satire, which is disappointing.


About rmdbutler

2007 Brit Award nominee for Best International Female
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