REVIEW: 'The Dictator'
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The Dictator is a departure from Baron Cohen's previous movies. Borat and Brüno saw Baron Cohen assume an identity and then unleash that identity on the world, recording the racist, insensitive and intolerant encounters that those characters had with actual Americans. The Dictator is completely scripted, and all the people in the movie are characters played by actors. This change helps Baron Cohen's movie, as after Borat, everyone knew who the actor was. His cover was blown, and his form of comedy suffered. Brüno tried to replicate the success of Borat, but it was too late.
I have a hard time accepting Baron Cohen in most movies. I thought he jarringly stood out in Hugo, and he just dropped out of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unlimited, which is good since it probably wouldn't have worked. Baron Cohen is at his best when he's in movies like The Dictator.
Returning to comedy while dropping the Borat premise has led to The Dictator being Baron Cohen's best film in years. It's funny, it has a great group of actors who know how to be funny, and it's brisk. The entire movie clocks in at less than an hour and a half, keeping the jokes fresh and preventing Aladeen from sticking around too long.
I did have a hard time determining the nature of the jokes in The Dictator though. When it came to Borat, the joke was on us. As we laughed at the racist jokes and comments in that movie, we were actually laughing at ourselves. I don't quite think that's the case with The Dictator though. Baron Cohen's version of a Middle Eastern despot relies heavily on cultural jokes and a ridiculous accent. When it comes down to it, there aren't deeper layers to the humor in The Dictator. There's no higher meaning to the laughter that comes from this movie.
Two of the movie's biggest laughs come from a scene that, um, creatively uses Kelly Clarkson's A Moment Like This and a scene with a quick Edward Norton cameo. (No, the Hulk does not make an appearance in The Dictator.)
I'm a fan of Anna Faris in moderation. Unfortunately, Faris is turned up to one of her higher levels in The Dictator. If you've seen the trailers, you've seen her shouting "Come with me!" to Aladeen. Expect that level from her for most of the film. Chris Pratt, her husband, has shown that he can be a multi-layed actor — it would be nice to see the same from Faris.
Unfortunately for the movie, I think The Dictator was hurt by the marketing campaign Paramount Pictures used. Doing the ash-dumping-at-the-Oscars thing gave the impression that movie would be in the same vein as Borat and Brüno when it really isn't. The Dictator is closer to a Will Ferrell movie. Honestly, if you wanted to get the best idea of how Baron Cohen is in The Dictator, watch what he did in Talladega Nights.
The Dictator is an enjoyable movie, especially if you're interested in getting some mindless laughs in. Just don't expect anything on same level as Borat.