The Dictator (15)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarNo StarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner18/05/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 83 mins

A straight narrative comedy rather than the candid camera style antics of Borat and Bruno, The Dictator has a flimsy plot and occasionally misfires but it also delivers several decent laughs (albeit highly offensive ones) and earns extra points for its ruthlessly short running time.

What's it all about?
Directed by Larry Charles, The Dictator stars Sacha Baron Cohen as General Aladeen, the “beloved oppressor” of North African state Wadiya, who finds himself in a diplomatic crisis after giggling while promising his uranium would only be used for clean energy purposes. Forced to travel to the US in order to give a speech at the UN, Aladeen instead finds himself tricked by his duplicitous uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley, largely wasted) and replaced by his own double, an easily manipulated idiot goatherd.

Although Aladeen escapes captivity, he finds that with his beard shaved off, no-one believes he's the rightful dictator of Wadiya, so he ends up penniless on the Manhattan streets, before being rescued by vegetarian food store owner Zoey (Anna Faris). With the help of his former nuclear expert Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas), Aladeen schemes to re-replace his own double before an imminent treaty can bring democracy to his country, but he finds himself distracted by his growing feelings for Zoey.

The Good
Eschewing the candid camera style comedy set-ups of Borat and Bruno, The Dictator marks a return to straight narrative features for Baron Cohen, though the raging egomaniac fish-out-of-water element is still present and correct (and, in fact, there's one scene that may well have been shot candid camera style, when Aladeen asks a passing police car “How much do you charge for an assassination?”). As a result, the flimsy plot is really just an excuse for a barrage of highly offensive gags, lines (“Are you having a boy or an abortion?”) and comic set-pieces, though it's fair to say that there are several decent laughs along the way and the script does at least get a brilliantly satirical speech in at the end, where Aladeen outlines all the benefits of a dictatorship and describes ... America.

Cohen's comic timing is impeccable and he does a good job as Aladeen, while there's strong comic support from Anna Faris (sporting a “little boy's” haircut) and Jason Mantzoukas (who's very funny as Nadal), as well as a couple of amusing cameos (there's a good running joke about dictators paying to have sex with film stars).

The Bad
Needless to say, with the script piling the gags this high, it's inevitable that some of them will fall flat and there are several moments (e.g. a baby delivery scene) that don't work. Similarly, the character doesn't feel as well thought out as Baron Cohen's previous creations, particularly in regard to his speech patterns and vocal quirks.

Worth seeing?
The Dictator is a gleefully offensive and frequently funny comedy that delivers more hits than misses, though it could have done with a little bit more of a satirical edge.

Film Trailer

The Dictator (15)
Be the first to review The Dictator...
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 23/07/2018 03:14

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

Foxcatcher (15)

Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum star in this real life inspired story of Olympic talent, fierce competition and murder.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films