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With Jim Sabatini


The Dictator

The Dictator
Starring:
Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, Anna FarisMegan Fox, Edward Norton, Gary Shandling and Kathryn Hahn


Rated: R for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: May 16, 2012 Released by: Paramount Pictures Corporation

A spasmodic, broad scripted farce, a raunchy political satire to say the least is Larry Charles' The Dictator.
 
Starring, of course, Sacha Baron Cohen (last seen in Martin Scorsese's wonderful childlike, but not really kid-friendly fable Hugo) as the titular leader, one Admiral Gen. Aladeen of the isolated (but oil abundant) North African nation of Wadiya. The British-Jewish thespian is out of his ad-libbing Borat and Bruno element with a less polished tensity from Charles in what could be considered a snarky low-brow variant on pics ranging from the recent The Devil's Double to Coming To America (the Eddie Murphy comedy). You can tell that Cohen has an edgy, sly flair for subversive cheeky comedy that shows an admiration for the late, great Peter Sellers who had a knack for staying in character when the scenes really didn't support it.
 
The enjoyment of the peppering offensive gags probably depends to a degree to how well-versed one is in current events, with a few gotcha randy moments (that thankfully wasn't converted into the popular 3D format) - an in-uteri birthing and an opening for Aladeen to an unwitting high-rise occupant.
 
So, the comical episodes have a prurient élan from Aladeen's staging of the Wadiya Olympics after the explanation of how he got his life-time gig where he is referred to as "Benevolent oppressor." The sensitivity of Aladeen's Pan-Arabic dialect hits on the uncertainty of the U.S. (benefitting the "1%"), Middle Eastern politics, as well as race, women, sexual orientation and anti-West sentiment in the paranoia of today's global climate while treating Islam with the grace it deserves. Too bad how Cohen (one of many scribes) and Charles stitch it together isn't as vulgarly vibrant as the undernourished screenplay and character of Aladeen are there in surface terms.
 
Yet, when Aladeen says to his head scientist about the look of his nuclear weapons "pretend that I'm an idiot" an audience is easily enraptured into a character like an imbecilic reporter or flamboyant gay fashionista. There's something, though, waning and long-in-the-tooth through the shocking displays that ultimately find its way as a cultural-clashing romancer.
 
Having Sir Ben Kingsley (quite impressive in though not sharing much screen time with Cohen in the aforementioned winning Hugo) on board as long-suffering, yet scheming right-hand man Uncle Vamir was good on paper as the actor is game enough in an early clenching moment and important late in its vision of stand-ins when security is at a premium.
 
A secret constitution where Wadiya plans to become democratic at a special U.N. assembly, against the wishes of Aladeen who speaks candidly about the U.S. when it comes to blacks and the Chinese, allows for all kinds of licentious humor to reign when Aladeen (after torturing by John C. Reilly's head of security) has his beard cut off and his moronic goat-herding double believed as him.
 
Around the jokes at a health food emporium is an amusing foil and partner for Aladeen in its driven entrepreneur Zoe, a short-coiffed, yet hirsute Anna Faris, who helps to channel some of her guile as a comedian (The House Bunny and the Scary Movie franchise) with a penchant for the latter's style of humor. Zoe (referred to as a chubby Justin Bieber and Harry Potter) may be the key to getting Aladeen (known to her as Allison Burgers) back in power through her company's catering work at the big U.N. event.
 
Many will be more than amused when the likes of Megan Fox, Edward Norton, Garry Shandling and Kathryn Hahn show up for cameos (the latter when Allison reveals himself as a surgeon), or much earlier after an intimate paid-celebrity encounter (with the former before Aladeen's wall of accomplishments comes into view). Apparently, dissidents haven't ended up as Aladeen demanded, and that works into the jocund jibberish and hi-jinks especially in a conversation around tours on a Big Apple helicopter tour.
 
The Dictator (obviously not to be confused with something from the legendary Charlie Chaplin) still manages to find a funny comfort zone in its standard narrative. However, there really isn't the gratuitous pleasure (besides for example what Aladeen imagines through dolphins and NBA superstar Blake Griffin) of swipes that draws from the beloved Looney Tunes doesn't quite crackle with the sophisticated animated verve that its talented performer can do with the impulsive glee of a dissolute despot.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Dictator  C+      C+         D   C   C   C 

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