You know a comedy has no barriers when it begins with a dedication to the late Kim Jong Il.
“The Dictator”(the latest creation from the mind of British character actor Sacha Baron Cohen, and directed by Larry Charles) is one of those movies you probably shouldn’t enjoy or laugh at but then, there comes a point where you just can’t control yourself. As in Baron Cohen’s and Charles’ previous efforts, 2006’s “Borat” (which I consider to be a comic classic) and the sub par but still amusing “Bruno” in 2009, the movie is offensive, in utterly poor taste, disgusting, vulgar, shocking…and yet I could not look away. It’s easily the most consistently funny movie of the year so far and it shies away from nothing.
“The Dictator” rips on every single race or political group possible: blacks, the Jews (oh how Baron Cohen likes to rip on the Jews), the Chinese, feminists, Dick Chaney, and a million others. In fact I would say “The Dictator” goes farther than both “Borat” and Bruno,” mainly because it’s scripted as opposed to being a semi-scripted semi-documentary.
After that blasphemous dedication we’re transported to The Republic of Wadiya (it’s sort of a stand-in for Iraq), where we meet its cruel dictator (oh! Excuse me, I mean “Supreme Leader”) General Aladeen (Baron Cohen in yet another Middle Eastern disguise, this time sporting a large beard and a general’s outfit) who’s really living the life. He gets to live in a gigantic mansion complete with pools in the shape of his face, an army of sexy woman bodyguards and the ability to have men executed by doing the throat slitting gesture (he does that a lot).
He replaced over thirty words in the dictionary with Aladeen. (Both the words “positive” and “negative” have been changed, along with “safety on” and safety off”.) He held the first ever Wadiyan Olympic games, where he won a record fourteen medals, and finally after a long hard day of dictating he plays a Wii terrorist game. (One level takes place in Munich, Germany…ha-ha?).
The plot is very slight, as you can tell from that description of the opening fifteen minutes and it doesn’t get any less so after that. After going to the U.S. and losing everything (including his beard) he’s forced to live as a regular person, where he meets a feminist vegan played by Anna Farris, who runs a feminist vegan social justice store in New York. (Take that Feminists and Vegans!)
As with “Borat” and “Bruno” the movie is more about the individual jokes and there’s no shortage of them. Those jokes mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. The script by Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer, is packed with jokes, and they get released at rapid-fire speed, like an automatic rifle. It’s reminiscent of “Airplane” and the joke book style structure of that movie.
Just when you finish laughing from one joke another one gets released. The shock and offensiveness start out small (although in this case small is still very extreme) and gradually build up, only to explode at certain points, recharge and explode again. For how shocking it can be though, the movie is surprisingly clever (like in “Borat” Baron Cohen slips in some social commentary on current politics) and there never comes a point where it feels like Baron Cohen and Co. ran out of ideas.
That’s about all I’m going to say about the movie’s content. Like all comedies it’s better for you the viewer to discover the rest for yourself. It won’t be for everyone, you’ll either enjoy it or be completely offended. As I said before, the movie is offensive and in poor taste, but since when does comedy have to be nice?