The Dictator hits theatres this Wednesday, but I got an early peek at Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest ultra offensive comedy.
Sitting somewhere between Bruno and Borat, The Dictator seems like a more ‘charged’ political parody than the other two. Unfortunately, this also means that in order to enjoy, you’ll need to attend with some minimally savvy movie-goers; ideally ones who can take a joke or two.
Though equally offensive, The Dictator does focus on the Middle East… but no one should feel singled out by the movie. I only mention this because every well-placed Jewish joke seemed to get no laughs. Let’s not forget, Sacha Baron Cohen is Jewish so if anything these jokes should be less offensive.
Of course, there is plenty more to knot your panties.. from women to immigrants to fat kids, Cohen shines when Aladeen, shows no mercy.
The Dictator is a story about the great leader of Wadiya, a middle eastern country with vast oil reserves and a dictator unwilling to sell them to foreign interests. So a plot is hatched to displace the great leader Aladeen, and turn the country in to a demoncracy so that ‘evil’ outside Nations can get to the reserves. Evil is of course relative; so there is little resistance to the plan to remove Aladeen and put a double in his place.
The switch is made when Wadiya’s leader is asked to visit the United Nations, to address concerns over its cruel dictatorship. When Aladeen is kidnapped by a ‘rogue’ special agent who hates ‘all Arabs’, his double announces to the UN that Wadiya will draft a constitution and embrace democracy. Managing to escape, the once-dictator vows to prevent the signing of the constitution and reclaim his power, all under the guise of preventing evil foreigners from taking his oil, just to confuse the good vs bad guys.
Adrift in America – “a country built by the Blacks and owned by the Chinese” – Aladeen meets super-American activist/hippie women’s libber Zoey (Anna Faris) who mistakenly takes him for a political refugee. Giving him a job in her organic grocery store co-op, their relationship sets up the majority of jokes in the movie. Even better, the store’s employees include a black guy, an old dude, a cripple, and when a fat kid comes in the menagerie is complete. I don’t begrudge a Baron-Cohen film for such obvious situational set ups, but they aren’t always the funniest jokes in the movie. His wandering around New York yields a much better reel, one that was clearly unscripted.
Aladeen’s drive to regain his rightful place as dictator soon leads him to explore the ‘unsavoury’ underbelly of New York, taking him to ‘Little Wadiya’ and a dank bar devoted to the country’s political refugees. Since Aladeen ordered most of these people executed while in power, he is shocked to find the former head of his nuclear program alive and in New York. Befriending him, the two decide to work together in order to return to their former power and status.
Though he desperately wants to return to Wadiya, Aladeen is finding that his ‘American’ relationship with Zoey is starting to change him. Despite her flat chest and short hair, he begins to fall in love with this unlikely candidate, and knowing that she hates what Dictator Aladeen stands for, he feels forced to reveal himself. He tries to explain that he is protecting his country’s oil, but his brutal leadership precedes him and Zoey asks him to leave.
Somewhat heartboken but undeterred from his plans, Aladeen and his former scientist set out to disrupt the UN signing of the new Waidya constitution. Now without any spoilers, because its best to avoid priming people for offensive humour – it makes it less offensive and less funny – Aladeen is able to regain power AND bring democracy to his people. He also gets Zoey. He also finds out she’s Jewish… and if you’re not laughing by that point in the movie, you’ll know you just weren’t the ‘intended’ audience.
The right audience makes any movie but when it comes to Sacha Baron Cohen flicks, in particular his latest The Dictator, I’m surprised anyone would find their way in to the theatre without knowing EXACTLY what to expect. In short, if you thought Bruno was meh and liked Borat, you’ll probably love The Dictator – which opens this Wednesday May 16th, 2012.
Bonus? TONS of Saturday Night Live cast members play bit parts; and they were a lot funnier than Cohen’s bit on SNL: