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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Sacha Baron Cohen
Anna Faris
Ben Kinglsey.
Directors
Larry Charles.
Screenwriters
Running Time
83 minutes

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The Dictator
Below Borat, beats Bruno


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Plot
When the UN clamps down on his country's nuclear weapons programme, General Aladeen (Cohen), pampered ruler of Wadiya in north Africa, travels to New York to deliver a stinging rebuke to the West. But after an assassination attempt goes wrong, he finds himself alone in a strange country, with only a health food-shop manager (Faris) for support.


Review
The Dictator
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Whenever Sacha Baron Cohen's filmography is discussed, it usually begins with Borat in 2006, which is when his stylised outsider clowning first horrified and, perversely, unified the USA by portraying it as the inclusive melting pot it always thought it was. This was a film that arguably still stands as a milestone in comic cinema; the first screening in Cannes that year – presented in a digital projection that looked more like a high-end snuff movie than a 20th Century Fox blockbuster – will never fade in the minds of those who saw it. Indeed, the splutters that greeted Borat Sagdayev's delight at meeting “a real-life chocolate face” – over the image of a bemused African-American politician – pretty much remains the dictionary definition of “nervous laughter”.

As with all such things, the follow-up was bound to disappoint, and, as if on cue, Brüno did. The fun with Borat was always trying to guess where the line would be crossed, and it was very much a tango between the prankster and the unwittingly pranked. With Brüno, though, there was only ever the initial frisson, like a You've Been Framed scenario in which the only vague interest was in how anyone would find their way out of it with their dignity intact (which, to be honest, they usually did). So the question was asked: what next for this button-pushing, space-invading buffoon genius?

The surprise is that he's gone back to the drawing board, and, while it's never quite as creaky or apologetically low-rent, his fourth character comedy is a return to the fictional basics of his now almost forgotten debut, Ali G Indahouse. Though it begins with a mockumentary-style nod to the second and third films – notably a deadpan dedication to the memory of Kim Jong-Il and some very, very funny fake news and verité footage – The Dictator seems more like a throwback, if not the missing link between that inauspicious, kind of embarrassing debut and the mighty Borat.

Once again we have Larry Charles to thank for helping Cohen through another of his successive impasses. Recognising that the game is up, as far as going under the radar is concerned, Cohen has made the right move in creating a much broader, more obviously cinematic character. He also now understands that any such character, no matter how exotic, must get to America pretty damn quick. And he knows that, whatever happens there, it can't stagnate. In the days of camera-phones and TMZ, such novelties as shock stunts and surprise cameos are getting harder to safeguard.

Which is where, presumably, Charles comes in. Charles, we must assume, is the real leader in this story, the mind that takes what must be hours of footage and shrinks it to less than 90 minutes. Most of it works, some of it doesn't, and the real reason this review is talking so much about other stuff is that the less you know about this film the better. Many of the gags in the trailer didn't even make the cut, and, as usual, Cohen has already parroted the best ones in his pre-release promotional appearances.

That said, it's a much warmer film than you might imagine. Aladeen is surprisingly empathetic, and his manchild-grows-up story – let's call it Zoolander meets Not Zoolander – hits all the right beats, aided notably by the terrific Anna Faris, a trouper for whom this kind of territory is like a zillionth tour of Iraq. There are, of course, many, many quibbles. Why not more of Aladeen at home, where he wins Golden Globes, has qualifications in medicine and fights a much smarter resistance movement? And why isn't there anything more sharp than a last-minute dig at America's real reasons for ousting foreign despots while ignoring its own less-than-clean foreign policy record?

But that's not really what this movie is here for. With its queasy sex jokes, male nudity and (very young) teen-appeal scatology, it seems really just an attempt to make up for the ground lost with the irritating Brüno, which it certainly does. The shame, though, is that, unlike Brüno even, it doesn't appear to confront anything, conflating Asian stereotypes with Arab until Aladeen's national identity seems to be neither here nor there. Still, when it's funny, it's very funny, and when Cohen's on form, there's still no one around who's so wide-eyed and yet so exquisitely and punishingly wrong.


Verdict
Formulaic, yet scrappy, and extremely funny in fits and starts, General Aladeen is the first of Cohen comic creations to get a better vehicle than it probably deserves.


Reviewed by Damon Wise

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Dictator
Empire Star Rating

NOT A THREE...

SCRAPPY, FUNNY ONLY IN PARTS....AND NOT AS GOOD AS BORAT... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chrisdagnall at 18:52, 15 February 2013 | Report This Post


Just absolutely awful

Watched this on Sky last night expecting to be quite funny, at least on the lines of Borat and Bruno. However, 15 minutes in and the only laugh I had was the dedication to Kim Jong Il, come the end of the film I hadn't laughed again. 90 minutes I will never get back. Such a shame. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by robmaytum at 16:55, 04 February 2013 | Report This Post


The Dictator

It's formulaic, offensive, and often gross. But for the most part, The Dictator is a sharp comedy that works well with it's plot and characters, and even pushing some political themes into the mix. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 22:02, 26 August 2012 | Report This Post


The Dick

The bit with the goat eating the wire was funny, and it was the only joke that wasn't at some demographic's expense. That scene alone makes it 100% better than Borat and it's fucktarded fans. Anna Faris does a great job too. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 01:19, 04 July 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Borat is untouchable. Bruno proved that.

Excellent Review . from Dr Lenera "I LIKE " ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rgod at 17:04, 28 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dic

L: spamandham Criminally unfunny, borderline racist, what the fuck is Ben Kingsley doing in this. £££££ Did you not see The Love Guru? ... More

Posted by UTB at 13:51, 28 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dictator

The Dictator In this overly PC world (and ultra PC UK) Sacha Baron Cohen is an exhilarating breath of fresh air that is most welcome. This new film isn't quite as good as his previous films, 'Bruno' being the best for me, 'Borat' coming second and lastly 'Ali G' but this is only down to 'Ali G' needing a better film, the character is probably his best creation. As for 'The Dictator' its a stirling effort in harsh political satire, more typical stereotypes and vulgar verbal humour but ... More

Posted by Phubbs at 07:14, 28 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dic

Criminally unfunny, borderline racist, what the fuck is Ben Kingsley doing in this. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spamandham at 02:11, 25 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Borat is untouchable. Bruno proved that.

Despite having a couple of good gags (I liked how Aladeem ends up in a restaurant full of people he sentenced to death for example), it's just far too dumb, gross-out & repetitive when it needed to be more satirical & smart. Many of the jokes as well either fall flat (all of John C Reilly's moments) , don't really make any kind of sense (the one involving Megan Fox) or are just cringe-worthy (the pregnancy scene). Could have a right larf, yet is pretty disappointing given the talent involved. ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 08:11, 22 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Borat is untouchable. Bruno proved that.

For forty years, the North African Republic of Wadiya has been ruled by Admiral General Hafez Aladeen, a lecherous, anti-western and anti-Semetic despot who surrounds himself with female bodyguards and is working on developing nuclear weapons. After the United Nations Security Council resolves to intervene militarily, Aladeen travels to the UN Headquarters in New York to address the council. Shortly after arriving, he is kidnapped by hit-man Clayton, who has been hired by his traitorous unc... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 17:17, 20 May 2012 | Report This Post


Borat is untouchable. Bruno proved that.

And so, it’s with a heavy heart (and suppressing memories of Ali G In Da House) that I concur that moving Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest creation into a fictional, scripted narrative was the smartest move they could make. 
And it almost works. Almost. It’s hard to put aside the desire to see him evoke genuine shock rather than mock repulsion in his immediate audience – no actor can quite pull off the mixture of disbelief and confusion that each of his mustachioed ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by thebackseatdirector at 13:11, 20 May 2012 | Report This Post


Side Splitting

Hilarious side splitting humor nervous laughing and guffaws. Cohen on top form, I've loved that guy since Ali G the TV show. Fans won't be disappointed anyone with a sense of humor is gonna love this. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 17:36, 19 May 2012 | Report This Post


It came off as desperate.

It may not be fair comparing this to Borat as that was a mockumentary and this is a straight forward film. But the jokes are pretty much the same kind of farcically type of offensive humour that had a point to it in Borat (and yes, even in Bruno) but here I found it tiresome and a little desperate. And it because it runs on the old fish-out-water formula (but with rape and human rights gags) and its real short 80 min length. It leaves very little impact when its over. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by alsybroth at 09:11, 19 May 2012 | Report This Post


It felt like an Adam Sandler film, badly written with too many gaps between the jokes but when it was funny it was very very funny, Baron Cohen is deeply talented but could well end up following Peter Cook's film career if he keeps making the same film on a worsening scale ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by wlucas at 21:04, 18 May 2012 | Report This Post


Average

I love SBC but his characters are beginning to show creaky signs now. I hope his next one can go back to the highs of Borat. Best bits of this were in the trailer. Stupid love-romance scene was completely pointless - Faris' character served absolutely no purpose in the film - I would've much preferred for Aladeen to simply spend more time with his Scientist mate instead. Still some funny bits but overall I wanted to laugh much, much more. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bobby TwoTimes at 09:44, 18 May 2012 | Report This Post


Average

I love SBC but his characters are beginning to show creaky signs now. I hope his next one can go back to the highs of Borat. Best bits of this were in the trailer. Stupid love-romance scene was completely pointless - Faris' character served absolutely no purpose in the film - I would've much preferred for Aladeen to simply spend more time with his Scientist mate instead. Still some funny bits but overall I wanted to laugh much, much more. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bobby TwoTimes at 09:44, 18 May 2012 | Report This Post


What it says on the tin

Yep, very offensive and goes over the line so many times you forget there is a line. When it is funny it is very good, but those moments are balanced out with some quieter moments where the gags dry up. But it is entertaining and there were some valuable lessons for the US on the benefits of dictatorship! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 20:31, 17 May 2012 | Report This Post


What it says on the tin

Yep, very offensive and goes over the line so many times you forget there is a line. When it is funny it is very good, but those moments are balanced out with some quieter moments where the gags dry up. But it is entertaining and there were some valuable lessons for the US on the benefits of dictatorship! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 20:31, 17 May 2012 | Report This Post


One joke. For 83 minutes.

Amusing in a sort of ute film that feels like 115 minutes, a hackneyed plot and unlikeable one dimensional characters, sweeping generalisations that are at best willfully offensive and at worst outright xenophobic, a swathe of cameo appearances from performers who probably thought this would boost their profile, a cunning twist on Character Development in that there isn't any, and a bitingly satirical monologue in the final act that seems to have been written for a GCSE project" ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 23:19, 16 May 2012 | Report This Post


..... THAT'S IT?!

if i hadn't of seen the trailer i would've found this film very funny, but i did so i didn't ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hughezyvstheworld at 21:41, 16 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE:

L: odddaze Delightfully offensive and wonderfully funny. Best comedy of the year contender right here. Loved every minute. i agree....... ______________ tment ... More

Posted by rafaelwinston23 at 09:12, 15 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE:

A ... More

Posted by Evil_Bob at 07:59, 12 May 2012 | Report This Post


Delightfully offensive and wonderfully funny. Best comedy of the year contender right here. Loved every minute. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by odddaze at 23:38, 11 May 2012 | Report This Post



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