The Dictator ***

Running time: 83 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: General Aladeen (Cohen), a pampered ruler of Wadiya, travels to New York to deliver a speech on his country’s nuclear weapons programme. But after an assassination attempt goes wrong he finds himself alone, with only a health food-shop manager (Faris) for support.

 

Like Baron Cohen’s previous personas, The Dictator is very comic. However while the others were harmless, General Aladeen is modelled on real life dictators such as Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein so is a lot more controversial. There are countries in which the actor has been banned from appearing as this character and a high percentage of the film’s jokes may be offensive to some people.

 

The acting in the film is mediocre. There are times when Sacha Baron Cohen appears ridiculous and Anna Faris is rather annoying in her role as Zoey. In addition to this none of the supporting cast members really stand out in terms of performance. Ben Kingsley is underused and completely miscast as the Uncle.

 

The film is clearly a comedy and not meant to be taken seriously, however some of the jokes work and others do not. There are some comical moments and others that are just cringe worthy. The story feels like a bad version of Coming To America. It feels like Cohen should have gone back to the drawing board and followed the same framework that made his spoof documentary’s funny and enjoyable. This attempt seems like a case of shock and awe. Some people maybe shocked, but many will not be awed.

 

The film has a genuine moments where it works, but on the whole it just tries to hard to be shockingly funny. Without giving the character more purpose and more depth the story runs out of steam pretty quickly.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

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