Sacha Baron-Cohen is no stranger to using original characters for comedy; most people will recognise him as Ali G or more recently, the incompetent and inappropriate reporter from Kazakhstan, Borat. Whilst these characters have provided a great amount of entertainment through clever wordplay and ironic wit, Baron-Cohen’s latest endeavour, Admiral General Aladeen, appears to be a creation designed to be offensive for the sake of being offensive rather than for comedic value.
The charm of his smash hit, Borat, was the element of outwitting the oblivious participants within the film. The irony of Borat’s racism and homophobia being used to make genuine bigots look ridiculous was what made it so great, but The Dictator is a completely scripted movie which detracts from Baron-Cohen’s natural comedic talent.
Whilst it was clear that the character existed to ridicule Eastern dictators such as Gaddafi, the intent to offend overshadowed the genuinely funny parts of the movie, of which there are a few, such as a monologue towards the end in which Baron-Cohen explains why the United States should remain a democratic society whilst listing political and social aspects of the government that mirror those of a dictatorship.
The majority of the comedy is naturally clever, however references to rape and murder will no doubt offend many members of the audience. The storyline is quite strong, however all of the good points seem to be drowned out by negative aspects: the script isn’t any more risqué or directly offensive than that of Borat or Bruno, but within those films it is clear that the ideal goal is to expose the American public’s general ignorance towards other races and sexualities, and so the politically incorrect dialogue is overlooked with the help of the pure comedic value. However, this isn’t the case within The Dictator.
There are aspects of the film that highlight and deride the ignorant, such as the view that Middle Eastern people are terrorists, however the script and storyline progression come across as lazy and appear to rely solely on Baron-Cohen’s fame. The portrayal of Zoey, the radical feminist, vegan hippie by Anna Faris of Scary Movie fame was excellent and the interaction between her and Baron-Cohen does add some relief in the midst of the train-wreck, however not enough to render me wholly impressed by the experience.
Had The Dictator been filmed in the same format as Borat and Bruno, I believe that this would have been another excellent outing from Baron-Cohen, yet the script, storyline and character development come across as weak and languid. A disappointing waste of 83 minutes.
Noah James Gibney