Title: The Dictator
Director: Larry Charles
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Farris and Ben Kingsley
Actors who have found fame and controversy with a film filled with comedic shock value and offensive stereotypes can have difficulty finding other movies that truly showcase their talent. In the case of Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays the title character in the new comedy ‘The Dictator,’ the actor created another character who regularly finds himself in outrageous scandals, due to his beliefs. While Baron Cohen couldn’t fully recapture Borat’s offensive behavior, ‘The Dictator’ still features his signature, confrontational stereotypes.
‘The Dictator’ follows Admiral General Aladeen (played by Cohen), who rules the anti-democratic country of the North African Republic of Wadiya. Aladeen intends to develop nuclear weapons to use on his enemies. After the United Nations Security Council announces its intentions to intervene in the country with military force, Aladeen travels to the UN Headquaraters in New York City to address its concerns. During his time in New York, he’s kidnapped by a hitman (portrayed by John C. Reilly), who was hired by his traitorous uncle Tamir (played by Ben Kingsley).
Tamir plans on replacing Aladeen with a political decoy, who he can manipulate into publicly democratizing Wadiya and open the country’s oil reserves for business. With the help of activist Zoe (portrayed by Anna Farris), who offers Aladeen a job in her grocery store, he’s able to gain access into the UN headquarters, as she’s catering the televised event of the signing of the democracy papers. In the process, Aladeen starts to genuinely love Zoe, who starts to influence his ideas on politics.
Baron Cohen, who co-wrote ‘The Dictator,’ his first fully scripted film, succeeded in once again creating a character whose ignorance brought comedic shock value to several sensitive subjects. Some of the jokes were extremely repetitive of ‘Borat,’ including objectifying women as prostitutes and criticizing minorities for their looks and beliefs; however, the actor-writer wasn’t afraid to once again amusingly feature attacks on all races and their biggest stereotypes.
During his speeches about democracy and dictatorships and through flashbacks to his time ruling in Wadiya, Aladeen provides a ruthless political satire of government and its leaders. The comedy humorously sheds a negative light on such subjects as the business deals between oil companies and government officials and the wealthy continuously looking for ways to make more money for themselves and no one else.
Farris was well-cast in the role of Zoe, as she genuinely captured the character’s desire to protect and save not only those around her, but the world as a whole. While the actress is primarily known for playing offbeat, idealist dreamers, she fearlessly took charger of the character and wasn’t afraid to stand up to Aladeen about her beliefs. Zoe, at times, exuded an aura of truth and consciousness, against Aladeen’s regressive political and religious ideas.
‘The Dictator’s helmer, Larry Charles, who also directed Baron Cohen in ‘Borat’ and ‘Bruno,’ once again presented ideas people may be thinking, but are afraid to talk about, due to their lack of commendation. While many people know that attacking other people’s backgrounds and religious and political ideas is wrong, the filmmaker included jokes aimed at everyone. Aladeen’s prejudices towards all races mirror the tensions and stereotypes between people around the world.
While Baron Cohen’s initial shock value has faded since the release of ‘Borat,’ the actor and his frequent collaborator, Charles, still know how to surprise audiences. ‘The Dictator’ isn’t just a daring parody of people’s differences; it’s another risque satire of politics and religion from the comedic team, which will surely offend some viewers while entertaining others.
Written by: Karen Benardello