It was inevitable that Sacha Baron Cohen would make a movie like this. It’s like “Borat” has now grown up and become Mohammar Gadafi. Or take your pick – Ahmedinijad, Kim Jung II, Sadaam, Bin Laden. Playing the “Supreme Leader” of the North African country of Wadiya, Admiral General Aladeen is working on a nuclear bomb to hold on to power against the nosy world. He’s convinced by his right hand man, an uncle played by Ben Kingsley, to address the UN to take some of the heat off.
Instead, the uncle has plans to dethrone him and this lands Aladeen without a beard and running freely on the streets of
But who cares about the story – is it funny? Well, yes, but maybe not in the way you would expect. First, it’s scripted, unlike the mockumentary “Borat”. The commercials are full of the quick ten second sight gags in the movie – the physical comedy such as Aladeen’s “Olympic Games”, where he guns down judges and opponents to win the gold. Cute – but it’s not the core of the movie’s humor.
It’s, surprise, the writing. Our ruthless leader is quite the politically incorrect guy. In fact, I sometimes wonder how this stuff will survive the expected anger. He skewers nearly every race, and in one scene is playing a big screen video game in which he appears to be re-enacting the 1972 Olympic massacre of the Israeli team members. I guess since it’s just a movie, all is forgiven. There’s also the fact that Cohen is so casual, so childlike in the way he delivers the zingers, it must lesson the impact.
But for this to be a Sacha movie, there of course have to be the truly gross, immature boy moments. So it turns out Zoey does not shave her armpits, and well, when the Admiral General finally gets his love scene with her - did they have to show the licking?
Not to mention a Chinese businessman character who like to tell stories about sex with male celebrities. But, yeah, this is where I chuckle with nasty delight.
Things are at their best though in the give and take between Aladeen and his former nuclear scientist, a guy named Nadal played by Jason Mantzoukas. It’s simply the core of the movie, as this is the one guy who will give it back to Aladeen - challenge him and argue for example over whether the bombs should be pointed or domed shaped. My favorite is near the end where Aladeen threatens to jump off a bridge and Nadal points out he’s wearing “Crocs”. He says it’s a sure sign you’ve given up, along with wearing sweatpants and going to “Applebees” every day.
Nobody and nothing is spared in “The Dictator”, which hits its stride after about a half hour. Stay for the scenes over the credits – there a few laughs there including a tasteless running gag involving a decapitated head from a funeral parlor. Well, Aladeen needed a full real beard. Okay - not your thing. They maybe skip “The Dictator”. For me, it’s mostly fine – I give it a “7”.