Mike Finkelstein believes in the oppression of the people of Wadiya. He is in full support of the supreme leader, Admiral General Aladeen. So when a documentary about the wonderful life of the supreme leader hit theaters in America, Mike made sure he was first in line, three weeks early. Now, while smelling like a homeless person due to living in a sleeping bag outside his local theater for three weeks, here is his review of “The Dictator”.
PLOT: During a trip to America to address the United Nations, Admiral General Aladeen (Sasha Baron-Cohen) is betrayed by his uncle (Ben Kingsley) and left in New York City with no beard, no clothes, and no way to deliver his speech. With the help of an exiled Wadiyan scientist (Jason Mantzoukas) and a liberated feminist/Vegan food store owner (Anna Faris), Aladeen must prove to the world he is who he says he is before his Uncle turns his beloved country’s government into a horrid democracy.
Check out the trailer:
MIKE’S REVIEW: I was once told that in the world of art, you have to evolve, or you die. Whether it be altering your sound a bit with every new album or changing your roles in every new film, you need to be able to rise to the next challenge. (Otherwise, you’ll just end up like Milli Vanilli or Pauly Shore, and who wants that?) And while Sacha Baron-Cohen seems to be trying to evolve with every new project he tackles, his new movie, THE DICTATOR mostly reverts back to the things he should have left behind long ago.
THE DICTATOR follows Admiral General Aladeen (Baron-Cohen), one of the last living dictators, as he heads to New York City to appear in front of the UN and answer questions about his country’s nuclear weapons program. Before Aladeen can deliver his speech, his jealous uncle, Tamir (Ben Kingsley), gives him up to the Americans. Miraculously, a newly shaved Aladeen (part of his torture) escapes his tormentor and ends up wandering the streets of New York, trying to figure out a way to stop his traitor uncle from taking over the throne, selling off the country’s oil, and turning the entire country into a democracy.
Here in lies Baron-Cohen’s first real fictional narrative, and yet it’s not too different from the mockumentaries that came before it. Just like BORAT and BRUNO, we are looking at the world through one ridiculously absurd character’s eyes, and that leads to some very smart, very funny, and very offensive perspectives on society and world politics in the process. We always wondered what these dictators are thinking. Now, because of General Aladeen, we know…to the most ridiculous extent.
If the film stayed on this track, it could have been one of the better political satires of this generation (starting with a great little tribute to a recently deceased dictator and ending with Aladeen’s monologue, which is absolutely priceless for anyone who even knows a fraction of political issues going on today). But instead, what we get are a bunch of priceless moments mixed in with too many throw away gags…poop jokes, vagina jokes, pubic hair, etc. Some were lackluster, some were shocking, and some were just wrong. Yes, these worked with BORAT and BRUNO, and with their style, they should. (Remember, they were all about the shock value and real people’s reactions.) This time, where the crew actually had time to put a real script together, it almost feels like we’ve been cheated as an audience.
Don’t get me wrong…Sasha Baron-Cohen is an extremely talented man. To create characters like Ali G, Borat and Bruno, and convince a nation that you ARE those people is a praiseworthy achievement in itself. Add onto that some noteworthy performances in HUGO, SWEENY TODD, and the upcoming LES MISERABLES, and you also have a comedian with real acting skills that you could respect. Even here, he does a beautiful job sinking into the skin of both Aladeen and his body double, giving us two completely separate personalities and reasons to laugh. We just know Baron-Cohen could have pulled off something even funnier while still being an intellectual and not stooping to such a level.
As for the supporting cast, there are some fun moments courtesy of John C. Reilly and Ben Kingsley, both of whom go through the motions just fine (although the back and forth between Reilly and Baron-Cohen during the torture is priceless), but the stand out relationship comes courtesy of Jason Mantzoukas, who plays a completely unorthodox nuclear scientist trying to help Aladeen get home. The two have absolutely great chemistry, like two idiot bickering brothers (can’t explain it any better way), and lead to the best moments in the film. Anna Faris’ Zoey, however, came across like nothing but a caricature. Faris did her best with what she was given, but I wish she could have been appreciated a little more instead of wasted on that.
Sacha Baron-Cohen’s THE DICTATOR is definitely a mixed bag. On one hand, you have the next Peter Sellers giving us his first full narrative—an ambitious undertaking for anybody—with some pretty funny observations. On the other hand, you have so many juvenile, disgusting moments that the above sentence kind of gets washed away by it all. I just hope that on the next outing, Baron-Cohen steps it up a bit. We all know he can. Let’s just see if he knows it, too.
1) SACHA BARON COHEN: You have to give the man credit…he may be completely disgusting at points, but he fully immerses himself into every role he does. Seeing him play both Aladeen and Aladeen’s double, and the amount of dedication he put into both characters just impressed me even more.
2) JASON MANTZOUKAS: This man was the saving grace of the movie. Despite being kicked out of the country and almost beheaded, he has no problem coming right back at Aladeen like the two are little bickering brothers. A smile was on my face whenever he was on screen, and that says a lot, especially when comparing it to the rest of the movie.
3) CERTAIN CAMEOS: Some cameos were not cameos at all. Others were pretty damn funny. The ones that were pretty damn funny absolutely owned. (See the movie, and the previous three sentences will actually make sense.)
1) CROSSED THE LINE: How many gross out jokes can you fit in one movie? How many orifices can you talk about in one scene? How many times can we sit and go “Okay…that was supposed to be funny, but it was just disgusting?” Let us count the ways…
2) ZOEY: Anna Faris will always be adorable, but there was nothing in this role to help her out. Zoey was neither cute, nor attractive, and was really just annoying throughout. Also, the love story was nothing short of ridiculous.
1) The language that Aladeen and Nadal speak on the helicopter tour is actually Hebrew.
2) On “The Daily Show”, Admiral General Aladeen reveals his first name to be Shabazz.