The Dictator Movie Review

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Ambushing human targets for sport in the service of Sacha Baron Cohen’s own radically distinct brand of comedy in movies like Borat and Bruno may be his preferred weapon of choice, whether on or off camera. But in the daring UK shock maven’s latest venture in provocative silliness with The Dictator, it’s the audience itself that seems to have been more on his political bait-and-switch mischievous mind.

In a kind of rowdy Prince And The Pauper contemporary knockoff, Cohen has cast himself as both General Aladeen, the tyrannical Middle Eastern dictator in question, and his body double decoy inducted to deflect assassinations. But internal subterfuge rears its conspiratorial head when Aladeen’s conniving brother Tamir (Ben Kingsley) schemes to eliminate him during a visit to the UN, in order to seal a lucrative secret deal with foreign oil interests. And instead of confronting an enraged international community at the UN in session – high on the Arab spring and taking issue with Aladeen’s adamant resistance to democracy – the unfathomably cuddle-deprived jaded stud finds himself fleeing for his life somewhere in Brooklyn.

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And cluelessly unaware that she’s just rescued Aladeen from imminent danger, is feminist vegetarian grocer Zoey (Anna Faris), presiding over a store staffed by immigrants ‘of all and no genders.’ Where the goofy general, it goes without saying, proceeds to violate all existing cultural norms by inadvertently mocking and demeaning everyone, especially women. In particular Zoey, whose short hair and grungy attire, lead Aladeen to repeatedly mistake her for a boy. Though his sexually ambivalent reaction to her unshaven armpits, may be an entirely different matter.

In any case, Cohen and director Larry Charles dictate the ludicrous course of events with no mercy for any side of the political spectrum. In particular during an outrageous final showdown at the UN, where Aladeen’s denunciation of democracy in favor of dictatorship that celebrates the triumph of the One Percent, makes its point as a playfully satirical nod to any possible OWS spectators in the audience.

The Dictator is nothing less than culture-clash wicked fun, even if derailing at times with Cohen’s trademark tendency toward extremes in a fondness for lewd bad behavior on screen. Making it pretty difficult to fault this lanky Michael Moore with bushy beard and bawdy banter when, for instance, pegging those pricey New York luxury hotels with their twenty dollar a day Wi-Fi fees, as the real international criminals.

Paramount Pictures

Rated R

3 stars

Trailer of The Dictator:

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express.