‘The Dictator,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Outrageous, offensive and alternately sophisticated and crude, “The Dictator” is also quite funny – as well as being Sacha Baron Cohen’s first comedy that is mostly scripted.

Did I say offensive? Put it this way: If you don’t have a sense of humor about race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and gender, here’s a movie that will easily induce anger or worse.

If, on the other hand, you can find the risky humor in a throwaway visual gag in which an anti-Semitic despot plays a Wii game based on Palestinian terrorists killing Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics (complete with a feature that offers the shooter “Jew-dar” to find his targets), well, this is the movie for you.

I will admit that I gasped and then giggled at the audacity of what is a tossed-off sight gag. And I was laughing regularly throughout this film, which was directed by Larry Charles and written by Baron Cohen and three others. Is it uneven? Of course – so are all of his films. But his hit-to-miss ratio is as high as that of the Zucker brothers in their “Airplane” heyday.

No one is safe from Baron Cohen’s sting, starting with the rulers of Arab countries, admittedly a demographic that can stand having fun poked at them. But he’s just as rough on the people who show up to protest dictators’ appearances at the U.N. And vegans and liberals and the CIA. And Brooklyn hipsters. And American tourists. And Arab expatriates. And the media. And celebrities… and … and …

Well, as I said, Baron Cohen casts a wide net. He seems to have something wildly nasty to say about everyone – but he always seems to say it with a charming smile. He’s an equal-opportunity offender.

In the film, he plays Admiral General Aladeen, supreme ruler of the Middle Eastern kingdom of Wadiya. He’s ready to execute anyone who questions his authority or his knowledge of current events or even anyone who simply makes him a little uncomfortable. Sure, his people hate his brutally dictatorial ways; that’s why he has a double to take his place in public, the better to be assassinated in his stead (since attempted assassinations seem to be a part of his daily life).

This review continues on my website.

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