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  • Writer's pictureSteve

The Dictator (2012)

"Justin Bieber's chubby double!" Says it all, really. Is there actually any need for a proper review?

Sacha Baron Cohen is back after a marketing tour that was going strong even as far back as the Oscars, that one Mr Seacrest will testify to, through gritted teeth. Already a master of the entrance, Baron Cohen went and poured fake ashes all over him even before the party began. Since then, it has been a juggernaut, going at full pelt, only now finally hitting a cinema screen near you.

And you can be forgiven for thinking you have seen all of this before. Well, you have, really. Baron Cohen reverts to type here, as he has done for every cinematic release in which he plays the lead, highlighting an idiot abroad. First there was Borat, then Bruno and now Aladeen. All of them examples of something most people will find at least partly offensive, even if this distaste is diminishing for every attempt he makes to make us snort guiltily into our popcorn.

It is undeniably obvious from both this and Bruno, that Borat was his high point. No longer able to take the public by surprise as he used to, he can no longer belittle and befuddle real people with his antics, so now he has to create a story and hire real actors to perform against him. This is a bipolar example of his original reason for being. On the good side however, Baron Cohen has finally been forced to act, as opposed to just being incendiary.

When the General of Wadiya, Aladeen, is forced to visit New York to explain his actions to the United Nations, he is replaced by a double that is even more ignorant than he is. His attempted assassination, arranged by his personal assistant, Tamir (Ben Kingsley - yes, really) goes awry and so he is left, lost in New York, beardless and clueless, only to be taken in by a political activist (and "lesbian hobbit") in the form of Zoey (Anna Faris).

Having claimed that he always found these types of clueless Dictators highly amusing, Baron Cohen figured that the rest of us did aswell. This is where he may have been wrong. What he finds so comical about the like of Gaddaffi etc is the way in which they are completely clueless as to what goes on around them. They have no understanding or concept of suffering, they will routinely execute people on a whim, they live in palacial homes whilst the people they are supposed to serve survive in squallor. This is the image that Baron Cohen portrays here for Aladeen.

Much is made of this joke, in fact, with the theme repeating itself all too often. Whether it is the approach to women in general, religion (another recurring theme in his work) or terrorism, Aladeen rarely ventures far from type. Toward the end of the film, Baron Cohen attempts to show us a different side to him that is neither convincing enough to believe or funny enough to revel in.

The sight of a man who has previously enjoyed the best of everything at the cost of everyone now having to work for a living and apologise for his wrongdoings is nowhere near as entertaining as watching a hideous oaf leave real people open mouthed in shock and awe, which is where Borat sat, and where Baron Cohen should really concentrate. Before long, he may be hearing a 'one-trick pony' galloping over the hill.


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