Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cohen's hilarious grossness continues

The Dictator, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest, isn’t quite as funny as Cohen's Borat (2006) and Brüno (2009) because it’s scripted whereas the former were spontaneous “mockumentaries” directed at unsuspecting victims. It takes awhile for this movie, also directed by Larry Charles, to get going. But after that, the film is almost as good as its predecessors. In fact it’s uncanny – or maybe not – how the movie spoofs the real world standoff between the United Nations and government of Iran. Cohen’s character Admiral General Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya refuses to let weapons inspectors determine whether his scientists are making weapon grade uranium. His character is a composite of the excesses of every maniacal dictator out there, complete with the gold-lined palaces and pathological temper, ordering executions on the slightest whim. But Aladeen comes closest in looks and personality – with the over the top uniforms minus the beard – to ill-fated Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. (The film is dedicated to North Korean’s deceased “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il!) Overlay Cohen’s Borat and Brüno characters’ cross-cultural stupidity and general outrageousness and you have Aladeen. The film, like the two earlier ones, is filled with sight gags – often of the very gross variety - as Aladeen comes to New York to make a speech to the UN. Improbably he falls in love with the manager of a Brooklyn natural foods store Zoey (Anna Farris) whose political views are diametrically opposed to his. All this takes place against the backdrop of his plotting uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) who wants him rid of so Tamir can democratize Wadiya and skim the oil profits. The movie suffers because, unlike Borat and Brüno, it’s not spontaneous. It’s also a bit of a tired theme, as per Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) and Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971).  Cohen however loves to take on extreme archetypes – Borat as the Eastern European dork, Brüno as the gay Austrian fashion journalist, and now an over-the-top dictator. What will his next character be? I can’t image but I’m sure we’ll immediately recognize it. 

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