Director: Larry Charles
After hiding behind the characters of Bruno and Borat, Sacha Baron-Cohen has kept the make-up on for his portrayal of Prince Aladeen, the fictional dictator of equally fictional African country Wadiya. His in-character publicity stunts (such as turning up at the Oscars with full complement of bodyguards and then accidentally spilling Kim-Jong Il’s ‘ashes’ all over the red carpet) have ensured plenty of press and anticipation for his latest film. This is surely to be a sharp, satirical work of genius. Isn’t it?
The film follows the aforementioned Prince Aladeen as he heads to the US to address the UN. Whilst there, he is kidnapped and replaced by a double who – along with Aladeen’s treacherous Uncle Tamir (Sir Ben Kingsley) – will announce that democracy will come to Wadiya. With his trademark beard shaved off, Aladeen is not recognized and needs to find a way to stop democracy ruining his beloved country. With the help of the ultra-liberal Zoey (Anna Faris) – who believes Aladeen is an escaped dissident by the name of Alison Burgers – he must infiltrate the summit and regain his position. But will the time in America change Aladeen’s outlook?
Cohen and crew have moved away from the semi-documentary antics of his previous films for a completely scripted affair that uses every cliche and gross-out joke imaginable. The film wants to be a devastating satire on world politics but it’s too toothless for that, with anything approaching insightful political comment quickly dispensed with. There are one or two good jokes – both verbal and slapstick – but the rest of the film is filled with dreary and obvious jokes that you can see coming a mile off. It’s a shame, as the cast do well, but they deserve much better material.
The biggest problem with “The Dictator” is not that it’s offensive, politically insensitive or crass. It’s just simply not funny enough.