Critics will tear this film apart. The plot is flimsy, many of the performances two dimensional and most of all it’s missing Sacha Baron Cohen’s famed candid-camera moments with unsuspecting everyday people as in Borat and Bruno. Still, this is his best work yet.
The Dictator holds a big, fat mirror to the ludicrous nature of dictatorships in the 21st century and multiplies it with a strong Cohen dose of parody. Admiral General Aladeen, beloved oppressor of Wadiya, thinks it’s cute when women go to school and likens it to watching a monkey on roller skates. In another scene, he plays doctor delivering a baby. “I have bad news, it’s a girl. Where’s the trash can?” he says with the newborn in his hands.
Things that are said and done are shocking but they are based on real events. The speech he makes at a UN convention pointing out the ironies of the American show of democracy is brilliant and the SNL-like portrayal of newsreaders and their annoying habit of describing mundane details at length is cringingly accurate. That’s where the good stuff ends.
Let’s revisit my opening statement: the plot is flimsy. A dictator gets replaced by a double in a conspiracy by his advisor (Ben Kingsley) to turn Wadiya into a democracy so that the Western world can exploit the oil-rich country. He escapes getting killed on his visit to New York and without his beard he is unrecognisable and must find a way to gain back his title. The Dictator is badly executed, no pun intended. But nonetheless I like this new turn of exaggerated Michael Moore-esque filmmaking pursuit Cohen has taken. (KS) ****