Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Dictator - 3 stars

Borat was revolutionary.  Borat was an amazing character.  By playing someone so racist, he was able to get unsuspecting people to expose their own racism.  Borat is one of the funniest movies of all time.

After Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen couldn't really get away with that kind of filmmaking anymore.  But he tried anyway, and we got Bruno.  It was harder to get people participate without being in on the joke, and who knows how many of the people in the movie didn't know that Bruno was a character.  The movie wasn't nearly as good as Borat, but it had it's moments.

For The Dictator, Sacha Baron Cohen has abandoned that style of filmmaking.  This movie is just a traditional movie with a script and everything.  Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen of Wadiya, a fictional country in northern Africa.  He is a comedic version of several evil dictators rolled up into one.  Anyone who he doesn't approve of, he has killed.  He plays Wii Terrorist, which includes a level called Munich Olympics.  Yes, that is as offensive as it sounds. 

When Aladeen comes to New York to speak to the UN, he is kidnapped by a CIA agent.  He escapes, but he has had his beard shaved off and is wearing ragged clothes.  The UN security thinks he's some crazy homeless guy and they chase him off.  He meets an ultra left wing feminist activist named Zoey (Anna Farris), and the movie turns into a romantic comedy. 

There is something in the movie to offend just about everyone.  Some of the jokes are so over the top that they are not even funny, just offensive, which somehow becomes even funnier.  I was laughing a lot. 

Not all the jokes work.  There is a scene in the trailer where Aladeen and his countryman are flying in a helicopter.  They are speaking in their language, and the older American couple are able to make out words like 'Bin Laden' and '9/11' and they start to scream.  This is just a misunderstanding, and it could have been really funny.  But them movie takes so long building up this joke, and you know exactly where it's going that by the time it gets there, the joke has run out of steam.  A big part of humor is surprise, and if there is no surprise at a punchline, it's hard to laugh at it.

But despite that, there are plenty of good jokes.  The easily offended shouldn't go, but if you saw Borat and Bruno, you have some idea what to expect.  And I really enjoyed the speech that Aladeen gives at the end about the benefits of democracy and the evils of a dictatorship.

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