Sacha Baron Cohen is back to shock the world once more in another impressively offensive satirical comedy, full of dark humour, gross moments and commentary that will tempt many to walk out from their screening. If you thought Cohen couldn’t be more offensive than Borat or more gross than Brüno, you’d be incorrect.
In The Dictator, Cohen plays a ruthless Wadiyan warlord who looks like Osama bin Laden, but is seemingly a parody of Muamma Gaddafi, yet appears in a film based on a book by Saddam Hussein, that can be in some ways considered a tribute to a film about Hitler (Charlie Chaplin‘s The Great Dictator). Truly there is evil everywhere, but is the film evil too or simply funny? The theater roared at my screening so I’d say funny.
Admiral General Aladeen is the film’s protagonist. In the fictional country of Wadiya he is the supreme ruler. When the United Nations agree to attempt an attack and take his land from him, he travels to America to confront the UN Security Council. However, under the instructions from his treacherous uncle Tahir (Ben Kingsley, who still can’t seem to avoid villainous roles), an agent named Calyton (John C. Reilly), kidnaps Aladeen and chops off his beard, rendering him unrecognizable. Before he gets the chance to do something else, Aladeen escapes and ends up disoriented on the streets of New York, hopelessly unable to adress the UN.
He discovers that Tahir intends to use one of Aladeen’s impostors, the bumbling and blissfully clueless Efawadh, to sign some sort of peace document for the UN. As he fruitlessly tries to break into the UN Headquarters, he is found by an activist named Zoey (Anna Faris) who is feminstic, kind and a lover of everyone, offering him a job at her food store, where people of numerous different ethnicities work in perfect harmony with each other.
Basically, Zoey is the polar opposite of Aladeen (who calls himself Allison Burgers in order to not cause alarm). This is why their relationship, which ironically blossoms into a romance later on, is a blast to watch.
Another character worth mentioning is Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas), one of Aladeen’s old employees who is still loyal to his master even when finding him de-bearded and alone in New York. Together they attempt to stop Tahir from getting the document signed before it is too late and the fact that Zoey’s store will cater the ceremony makes it all the better. Speaking of other participants in the film, watch out for cameos from Edward Norton, Megan Fox and Chris Elliot. Cohen loves his celebrity cameos.
The Dicator provides varyingly offensive and dark pieces of commentary on Middle Eastern views on issues such as racism and women’s rights, as well as America’s bigoted tendency to misunderstand the difference between an ordinary Middle Eastern fellow and a crazed terrorist. It is a satire that mocks everyone and really, it doesn’t matter whose side you’re on. Don’t get upset about what they choose to make jokes about. Instead laugh at how hilarious they are and admire the fact that Cohen has balls. If you don’t believe me he’ll gladly show them to you.
Indeed, when it isn’t wickedly satirical, The Dictator is purely gross, but in the same manner as Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Sacha Baron Cohen is at least creative in how gross his humour can get. The biggest laugh is when Aladeen tries to help a lady give birth to a baby and the scene is shot in a very interesting fashion. I won’t say what it is but let’s just say it strongly resembles a scene from Enter the Void. He successfully helps the lady, nevertheless, and has a heroic moment before realizing: “I’m afraid I have bad news… it is a girl. Where is the trash can?”. Don’t worry, the infant lives.
Sacha Baron Cohen is a funny man and I admire him for not letting America’s fondness of political correctness or dislike towards freedom of speech stop him from creating big Hollywood films. I admire him for the same reason I can’t stop watching South Park. Gross-out humour that’s actually smart, imagery we’d rather not see and commentary that dares to take chances. Oh free speech, how I love thee.