The Dictator Review
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Sacha Baron Cohen is nothing if not dedicated to his craft. When he’s making a movie, he goes all out, traveling around and doing all of his appearances in character—whether he’s doing interviews in a stinky, sweat-stained suit for Borat or showing up at the Oscars in costume, with a full entourage, and dumping what he claims to be Kim Jong-il’s ashes on Ryan Seacrest. But, despite all of the hype, audiences might be surprised by the comic’s latest film, The Dictator.

After all, this time around, Cohen leaves politicians, celebrities, and the general public alone, choosing to tell an actual story instead of simply wandering around in character, attempting to offend and humiliate people on camera. And the result—while still as crude and occasionally offensive as his other films—is also surprisingly amusing.

Cohen stars as Admiral General Aladeen, the not-so-benevolent dictator of the Middle Eastern country of Wadiya. After shaking things up in the U.N. for claiming to be putting the finishing touches on refining weapons grade uranium, he reluctantly agrees to travel to the U.S. to speak to the General Assembly. But the trip to New York doesn’t go quite as planned. His right-hand man (Ben Kingsley) decides that it’s the perfect opportunity to assassinate the crazed leader and take control of the country (and its oil supplies) using a dim-witted body double.

Aladeen manages to escape his assassin at the last minute (albeit without his infamous beard). But when he tries to get to the U.N. in time for his speech, he’s too late. The body double is already in place—and he’s announced plans to sign a constitution, making Wadiya a democracy.

Aladeen has just a matter of days to prevent this ridiculous constitution—and he finds help from the most unlikely sources: a vegan feminist protestor and a man he thought he’d had killed.

The Dictator may be filled with the same racist jokes, nudity, and general offensiveness as Cohen’s earlier films (though perhaps not to the same extent), but it feels a whole lot less mean-spirited than movies like Borat and Brüno—because, this time, everyone in the film is actually in on the joke. Perhaps that will disappoint Cohen’s die-hard fans, who love watching the comic make fools of the people he encounters—but, for those (like me) who always walked out of his earlier films feeling sorry for his unsuspecting victims, it’s a welcome change.

The scripted nature of the film also allows for things like plot (though not necessarily a brilliant one) and an abundance of fun celebrity cameos. Granted, there are still plenty of random—and completely unnecessary—scenes that will make anyone who isn’t a college-age guy cringe. But in the moments when Cohen chooses to lay off the more outrageous comedy, he can be surprisingly clever—and often downright hilarious.

Sure, The Dictator is still a pretty idiotic comedy, following a ridiculously-costumed man who overacts his way through just about every scene. But the good-natured comedy and some side-splitting surprises make it a goofy guilty pleasure.

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