Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Dictator

Aladeen for Business

Rated: R  Strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images
Release Date: May 16, 2012
Runtime:  1 hr 23 mins

Director: Larry Charles
Writers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer
Cast:  Sacha Baron Cohen, Jason Mantzoukas, Ben Kingsley, Anna Faris, Chris Parnell, John C. Riley

SYNOPSIS: Supreme Leader Aladeen of the North African country of Wadiya travels to New York to address the United Nations and ends up double-crossed and homeless by his closest advisor.

REVIEW: Director Larry Charles. a long-time collaborator with Sasha Baron Cohen who directed both Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Kazakhstan and Brüno, returns to take charge of Cohen's latest project as the misunderstood dictator of the small oil-rich North African country of Wadiya. Written by Cohen, and EuroTrip writers Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer, Cohen scraps the faux-documentaries of his past in favor of a scripted story.
Admiral General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen, Hugo) has grown up from an early age as the dictator of the coastal oil-rich North African country of Wadiya. Undeterred by the United States of America's mandate to search the country for weapons of mass destruction, Aladeen travels to New York City with his advisor Tamir (Ben Kingsley, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) to address a session of the United Nations. When an assassination attempt on Aladeen's life fails, he finds himself without a beard and outside his entourage. In fact, a stand-in has taken Aladeen's place and is scheduled to act as a puppet to sign a democratic constitution in three days. The real Aladeen must endure the companionship of feminist, eco-friendly, vegan grocery story and caterer entrepreneur Zoey (Anna Faris, What's Your Number?) and former Wadiyan Head of Nuclear Science Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas, Baby Mama) in order to get an opportunity to switch back with his double and regain control of his country.

A fan of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Kazakhstan, but not a fan of Brüno, I went into the theater unsure of what to expect from Sacha Baron Cohen's latest effort. His first large scale scripted film that follows in the same style as Borat and 
Brüno, Cohen takes on the bigoted, power-hungry role of Supreme Leader Admiral General Aladeen of the North African country of Wadiya. Cohen takes his role of dictator seriously - seriously funny. He is so ludicrous in his perception of his kingdom and the world outside his kingdom, its at times hilarious. He is so enamoured with himself that he thought it a good idea to change over one hundred forty words in the Wadiyian to English language dictionary to his name. So when you go to the doctor to hear the results of an HIV screening, the results could be Aladeen or Aladeen. And when his nuclear head scientist doesn't understand Aladeen's argument to make the nuclear warhead pointy at the top, he gives his security detail the throat-cutting high sign to have the man executed, in the most silly evil dictatorial way he knows how.

When a scripted effort, Cohen surrounds himself with a cast of capable supporting players. Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley emotes minimalism with his understated portrayal of Aladeen's second in command with aspirations of selling the nation's oil reserves for his own ends. Anna Faris brings her bubbly wide-eyed ideals to her granola, vegan, unshaven pit role of Zoey. Chris Parnell provides the blow-by-blow color commentary of the dictator's actions at home and abroad from behind a news desk.  The head of Aladeen's security while in Manhattan, played by John C. Reilly, wears a earbud and his hatred for everything un-American on his sleeve, to comic effect. Jason Mantzoukas, who plays the former Wadiyian head nuclear scientist Nadal and current Wadiyian patriot who just wants to build a uranium-filled bomb, plays well with Cohen's Aladeen, especially when they take a tourist helicopter flight around the city. And Cohen entertains us with a duel role of both the misguided dictator Aladeen and an even more ignorant and naive shepherd-turned-body double Efawadh.

The story seems to serve as a reason for Cohen to embody a man who can rant about the inferiors and about Americans and American politics in general. Cohen's Aladeen does may some relevant and compelling arguments as to the parallels of democracy and dictatorships. Of course, those arguments come between full frontal male nudity and comments about dirty lesbians. But there is a shell of a romance in there as well. For an iron-fisted leader of a nation, Aladeen is a man with impossible wealth and no restrictions who really just wants to cuddle. All the money in the world may get Megan Fox (and many others) into his bed, but that money will not fill up the loneliness in his heart. Faris' Zoey may win his heart because of her ideals and her no nonsense approach to dealing with Aladeen and his idiosyncrasies.

The Dictator is a silly and raunchy exploration how some Americans see parts of the world and how some of the world see the United States. If you are a rabid fan of Sacha Baron Cohen's work and personas, The Dictator is a film for you to put on your 'to see' list. I found myself laughing in spite of myself. Some of the jokes land like a SCUD missile, but others 'paint' the funny bone like laser-targeted bunker busters!   

WORTH:  Matinee or Rental

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