Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” and “Bruno”
It is tempting to be lazy and give Larry Charles' "The Dictator" three stars and be done with it, but having watched his previous works with Sacha Baron Cohen in 2006's "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" and 2009's "Bruno", "The Dictator" feels like a letdown, as well as a horrible whiplash from Sacha Baron Cohen's less offensive and endearing portrayal of Inspector Gustav in Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed "Hugo".
Although "The Dictator" may not be a mockumentary, it runs along the lines of Charles' previous mockumentaries, with the film being based on Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was still alive when the film was written, while being a dedication to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. The film tells the story of a dictator known as Admiral General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) who lovingly ruled the country of Wadiya with oppression until one day, he was kidnapped by an assassin sent to torture and kill him. Aladeen manages to escape, only to find out that he was replaced by a double by his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley), who wants to democratize Wadiya and open the country's oil fields for business. Helpless, Aladeen runs into an activist named Zoe (Anna Faris) who offers him a job at her alternative lifestyle shop. Aladeen soon falls in love with her, which leads him to be torn between his dictatorial ways and his love.
Kudos can be given to the casting as "The Dictator" manages to address possible criticisms of Aladeen and the cast as being one-dimensional characters by throwing him into sympathetic situations and casting people who fit the stereotypes, such as Anna Faris as the ditzy but kind-at-heart activist who only wants democracy for all and Ben Kingsley as the greedy uncle who is bitter at having being passed over for the throne. The set-up alone helps makes for a tolerable watch in spite of the offensive and more-misses-than-hits jokes. In addition, the easy chemistry between Sacha Baron Cohen and Anna Faris is undeniable, which makes sense since the two are comedy veterans; however, the love story itself is a shackle that binds them to a framework of rom-com cliche.
It is really too bad that the writers failed to make their political satire stick, for there are indeed a few gems here and there that strike close to home, such as John C. Reilly's Clayton recommending that Aladeen should visit the Empire State Building "before you or one of your cousins takes it down." If anything, most of their best jokes have been showcased in the trailer, and you know what they say about not showing all the cards in your hand. On the other hand, one cannot exactly fault the cinematography and effects for not trying their best. "The Dictator" makes use of some of real-life clips such as Obama's speech by convincingly manipulating them to construct a fully-fleshed out dictator. They have even employed Sacha Baron Cohen's older brother, Erran Baron Cohen, to construct a full fitting soundtrack for the film, most of which sound suspiciously like chants for Aladeen.
In conclusion, "The Dicatator" is one the year's biggest comedy letdowns, considering the hype, as it cannot make up its mind whether to be a slapstick romantic comedy or slapstick political mockumentary but ultimately, lacking the depth it needs to hit the homerun . The only thing that is for certain is that both satire and laughter have breathed their last in the film's 83-minute run. Perhaps Baron Cohen's next portrayal should be Larry Charles himself, as an actor who plays a director in a film mocking a director about loving to film the actor mocking others. How is that for depth?
The film is also available in 2D in cinemas.Cinema Online, 20 June 2012