Cohen is known for completely becoming his offensive characters and placing them into real-life situations where people unwittingly participate in the candid-camera “mockumentary” style comedy he creates. But, The Dictator does not follow that approach and is Cohen’s first fully-scripted film since Ali G Indahouse and for good reason, in that I can’t imagine him getting away with his abhorrent ad-lib antics as this character anywhere in New York City without eliciting very real harm to himself.
In The Dictator, Admiral General Aladeen (Cohen) rules the fictional North African country of Wadiya and he is a combination of Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Idi Amin Dada all rolled into one supreme ruler. The movie is even dedicated to the “loving memory” of the recently deceased North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il. When the ruler makes a trip to the U.S. to address the United Nations, he finds himself replaced with a look-a-like stooge (also played by Cohen) who is set-up by his right-hand man, Tamir (Ben Kingsley), who is trying to turn Wadiya into a democracy so he can reap the benefits of its oil wealth.The beardless Aladeen is unrecognizable when he escapes into the streets of New York where he continues to act as though he is the ruler over all he surveys. The fish-out-of-water gags that follow range from incredibly inane to extremely smart and hilarious, multi-layered political satire. Absolutely nothing is sacred in this film, it is 80 minutes of material that is sure to offend almost everyone in some way.
The cast of The Dictator also includes John C. Reilly (Talladega Nights) in a short but funny role as a rogue Secret Service agent and Anna Faris (Yogi Bear) as Aladeen’s “love” interest. There are also fun cameos by Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show) and Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk). The film is directed by Larry Charles, who also helmed Cohen’s other movies, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Brüno. The film also has a fun and entertaining soundtrack with Arabic versions of American pop songs like REM’s Everybody Hurts, performed by Mc Rai and 9 to 5, performed by Michelle J. Nasser.There is an old axiom that says, “You can’t be prejudice if you hate everyone equally.” I don’t know that Cohen hates anyone, but he certainly is an equal opportunity offender and this film is not for the comedic faint of heart. There are jokes regarding 9/11 in this movie and if you believe that it will always be too soon to laugh at events surrounding that tragedy, then you’ll want to take heed and avoid this film. If you can accept the fact that these gags are meant to address the absurdity of terrorist organizations and regimes, as well as the prejudices bestowed on Arab-Americans since 9/11 – then you’ll GET this movie and have fun. But don’t worry; I’m sure you’ll still find something to be offended by.
One of the funniest running jokes in The Dictator involves the ruler changing the names of many of the words in the Wadiyan language to his own name of, “Aladeen,” including the words meaning positive and negative. So it seems appropriate to say this movie is both aladeen and aladeen. It is often hilariously funny and thought-provoking, but sometimes tries too hard to be rude, for rudeness’ sake alone. The Dictator needed to practice some comedic discipline because poor taste does not automatically equal funny and its moments of playing to the lowest level of crude keep this film from being a classic.