Larry Charles latest pairing with Sacha Baron Cohen is over-the-top, offensive, and has some of the most vulgar scenes put to film since Freddy Got Fingered. It’s also undeniably one of the funniest movies of the year. In The Dictator Cohen assumes the mantle of Admiral General Aladeen, the ruthless leader of the fictional country of Wadiya. He’s changed over one hundred words in the Wadiyan dictionary to “Aladeen” including the words “positive” and “negative” (Making for a very awkward doctor/patient exchange while delivering the news that the patient in question is “HIV Aladeen”), Osama Bin Laden stays in his guest house from time to time, he can have any Hollywood starlet he wants for a price, and he executes his people at the slightest infraction (Accidentally getting the prize in a cereal box, not getting out of his way when crossing paths down a flight of stairs, etc).
His latest plan to make the Republic of Wadiya a nuclear power has brought the United Nations to his door and forces Aladeen to go to New York City in an effort to stop them. While in NYC, A plot by one of Aladeen’s inner circle causes the dictator to lose his beard and be replaced by a lookalike. From there the movie turns into The Fisher King meets Moon Over Parador as he meets Zoey (Anna Faris), a health food store owner, and plots his revenge with a Wadiyan refugee (Jason Mantzoukas sen most recently on FX’s The League). After the eye-opening Borat and the lackluster Bruno, Cohen and Charles next match up had to be monumental and that’s exactly what The Dictator is. Cohen is at his laugh-out-loud funniest and his chameleon-like ability to morph into new characters time after time is at its best here. Whether he’s lashing out at an older woman who called him “nice” or talking about his “Porsche 911 2012” with Mantzoukas’ Nadal while on a helicopter sightseeing trip over NYC, Cohen as Aladeen never falters. Dare I say, the Andy Kaufman of the 21st Century?
Speaking of Mantzoukas, as Nadal he steals the show in every scene he’s in. As the former head of Wadiya’s nuclear program, Nadal yearns to make the perfect missile and does whatever it takes to see Aladeen’s plan through to the end (Wait until you see “Plan B” while attempting to get Aladeen a new beard). Other standouts include Sir Ben Kingsley who gives a subdued performance as Aladeen’s right-hand/uncle while elsewhere in The Dictator, everyone from Chris Parnell and JB Smoove to Ed Norton and John C. Reilly show up in various roles. For added Wadiyan flair, check out the soundtrack on Aladeen Records featuring Wadyan interpretations of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”.
That’s not to say The Dictator doesn’t have it’s share of flaws. The love story is just awful and drags down the narrative while the final resolution wraps a little too quick a la an Adam Sandler epiphany at the end of say Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison. Then there’s the whole “Democracy is just like a dictatorship” theme which is just silly. When it sticks to the plot though, The Dictator brings the funny and rude and hilarious ways.