The Dictator: A-wha?

Mildly funny, semi-pointedly rude, sorta ironic, blessedly short.

TheDictator-Front

Somewhere within The Dictator is a message about our own culture. Like Bruno and Borat before it, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest shockfest exposes some unpleasant things about ourselves, but unlike those two films, it’s refreshingly direct about it. In fact, it’s the only other SBC film besides his original Ali G that has a conventional narrative structure. It’s easier to watch, easier to follow, and therefore less surprising than his other films, but there’s a nice little moment at the end where he reveals his point in a politically scathing yet hilariously paced way.

Here is where the pros end!

The Dictator is so offensive that it could be used to undo weeks of sensitivity training in a single 90-minute sitting. In fact, its method of offense is even a little confusing. OK, a dictator of a fictional country called Wadiya embodies every dictator stereotype. Do we feel bad about stereotyping dictators? No. OK. Proceed.

This dictator comes into contact with the most tree-hugging of vegan Brooklynites. He’s used to using women for sport, and now he has a short-haired feminist in front of him who he sorta needs to make nice with in order to accomplish his goal (of being a homicidal maniac, hahahaha). He makes fun of her for not being as hot as she could be, but of course, he ends up getting over his hangups about armpit hair and decides that it’s not appearances that matter. So that’s OK, right? OK. Moving on.

We find ourselves rooting for General Aladeen, despite his terrible ways. He does change a little, but not before he’s learned how to “pleasure himself” (in one of the most awkward scenes in cinematic history–just the thought of all the takes involved makes me want to take ten showers), made a billion rape jokes (assault! lol!), delivered a baby by sticking his hand into a woman’s uterus and pulling the infant out (if only that were possible), and, well, pooped on unsuspecting New Yorkers from a zip line strung between two buildings (I might look the other way with that one).

So The Dictator leaves us with a feeling that we’ve just been hoodwinked. I mean, we gave SBC the benefit of the doubt and allowed him to turn the horrific lives of oppressed people into a feature-length comedy, and he couldn’t even make it all that funny. In some ways, that’s a slap in the face. You know how the old saying goes: “If you’re going to make light of tragic situations, hire a good writer to help steer you away from poop jokes.”1

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Why you should see this movie

You rewatched the Austin Powers movies lately and you really felt like they stood the test of time. Also, you’re 10 years old and have never suffered under a dictatorship.

Why you should stay home

Let me put it this way, I wish with my whole heart that I’d seen Battleship instead. Are you with me?

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Footnotes

  1. Or milking women’s boobs jokes. Honestly, SBC seems a little like a fifth grade boy, the kind that asks you how girls manage to pee out of their butts. 
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Susan Howson

Susan Howson writes all sorts of things — from marketing content to movie reviews to this very bio.

4 comments on The Dictator: A-wha?

  1. Jeb Hoge on said:

    I think the “Ali G” and “Borat” characters are so funny because they’re such underdogs but don’t realize it. But it seems when SBC takes a character role that’s got a place of dominance over others, it just doesn’t work.

  2. @Jeb Excellent point. You want to root for Bruno and Borat because they are so clueless and lovable, but Aladeen literally kills people for fun? Like…what are we supposed to do with that?

  3. schlep on said:

    Anna Faris is great as ever. But she’s wasted in this mostly unfunny film. I was wishing I’d seen The Avengers instead :P

  4. Jeb Hoge on said:

    Interesting side note: An Iranian ex-pat I know posted to her FB page recently that this was the “funniest movie everrrr”. IIRC, she grew up during the Iran-Iraq war. Makes me think that maybe SBC had a different audience in mind.

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