Crude humour through thoughtful comedy screenplay is the key ingredient to giving the audience a roaring good time. Film material has ensured everything wrong and is fearless of taboo and political sensitivity, which complements Sacha Baron Cohen's brand of physical comedy through impersonation. Feeling more like a lengthened sitcom, it does however prevent the film from becoming more than just for laughs.
Sacha Baron Cohen – Academy Award®-nominated and Golden Globe-winning writer/performer and creator of such indelible characters as Ali G, Borat and Brüno – now steps into the autocratic and very shiny shoes of General Admiral Haffaz Aladeen, a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy will never come to the country he so lovingly oppresses, in The Dictator.
A gifted comedian who has yet again entertained 90 minutes of our lives in delight. Sacha Baron Cohen has previously prevailed in Borat, one of the television comedy series misfits featured in Da Ali G show. Borat was a multiple nominee for Best Comedy and Best Screenplay (even the Academy Awards) during its year of release. Following the success, Cohen has flopped arguably with his second misfit adaptation in 2009's Brüno and has ever since decided not to adapt any of his misfit characters for the big screen since more people are familiar with his "docu-comedy" stint.
Back to the centre stage of comedy is Cohen playing a new fictitious character General Aladeen, who's highly impersonated after a famous Middle Eastern dictator. Cohen is back with more tricks under his sleeve as he belts out hilarious gags after another. It is also credited to the physical comedy acting that has amplified the funny screenplay.
Cohen is a marvel in playing a range of blatant memorable personalities. From Borat to Brüno and now General Aladeen, he proves that life is interesting with the delectable numbers of vivid characters among us. But I have to say that prolonged impersonation has limitations after all, where Cohen is often noticed to sport inconsistency with his portrayal of nonuniform personality traits. There are times when his Arabic accent is distinct (i.e. helicopter ride scene) and times when he feels like someone else, say a mix between Borat and King Julien.
Here's the Helicopter Ride scene to give you a taste of what to expect from the film:
Keeping the laughs aside, one will observe that the film's made up of several mini scenes of sitcom pieced together in pursuit of the relatively simple story of the downfall of a tyrant and his "fish out of water" journey in the democratic USA. Much like Borat (also directed by Larry Charles), it is the "fish out of water" scenario that allows for jokes cracked from cultural difference. The sequencing of the scenes do not provide a seamless story arc that feels relevant in continuity, which reduces the film's depth and its potential to be much more.
I'm afraid that The Dictator is nothing more than a comical 90 minutes sitcom.
Supporting characters such as Anna Faris' Zoey and Jason Mantzoukas' Nadal have provided Cohen a dynamic array of amusing chemistry that works its way through the audience. However, Ben Kingsley's role felt surprising insignificant and underused. Even Megan Fox's cameo was more vivid in mind (not for superficial reasons, I assure you).
While the humour may be extremely crude and at times tasteless to exploit social-political puns and references, The Dictator does however ensure that everyone's having a good time by sending grins up one's face profusely.