Trending
MOST READ
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Music: Chris Pérez never saw it coming. “All I ever wanted to do was play guitar,” he told the Current. “I never thought I’d be the subject of an interview... By Enrique Lopetegui 8/28/2013
New Sensation: SA’s Austin Mahone and teen pop superstardom

New Sensation: SA’s Austin Mahone and teen pop superstardom

Music: Like the bulk of Austin Mahone’s Instagram account, this one’s a selfie. In a white tank top, hair coifed up real big, Mahone arranges... By Matt Stieb 7/22/2014
Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Arts & Culture: In one of the final chapters of his book To Selena, With Love (out March 6), Selena's widower Chris Perez mentions that Abraham Quintanilla, his former father-in-law, once... By Enrique Lopetegui 3/7/2012
7 Public Art Projects Worth Searching For

7 Public Art Projects Worth Searching For

Arts & Culture: You’re likely familiar with the high-profile works of public art on view around downtown San Antonio: the gigantic, red swoop of... By Sarah Fisch 7/23/2014
Calendar

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Screens & Tech

'Borat''s mastermind takes a more conventional route in 'The Dictator'

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo


It was only a matter of time before Sacha Baron Cohen would have to retire his style of guerrilla filmmaking. After the success of 2006's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and the relative non-success of 2009's Brüno, sneaking up on people with a camera and smacking his genitals on their foreheads wouldn't be as easy as it once was for Cohen, especially now that a sizable portion of the population knows his face, among other parts of his body.

So his third movie as a writer and actor, The Dictator (which is directed by Seinfeld vet Larry Charles, who also helmed Borat and Brüno), follows a more traditional narrative and customary form of moviemaking, with real stars Anna Faris and Ben Kingsley in supporting roles. No more ambushing of unsuspecting rednecks and minor-league terrorists, and no more social commentary disguised as poop jokes. The Dictator plays its comedy relatively straight.

And unfortunately, it's not very funny. Cohen stars as Admiral General Aladeen, the leader of the Republic of Wadiya, a fictional Middle Eastern country standing in for Iraq, Libya, or any other half-dozen places on that side of the world — they're all the same to Cohen. And his dictator is just as generic: crazy-ass beard, huge mirrored sunglasses, and a rainbow-vomit of decorations pinned to his blindingly ornate uniform. As “supreme leader” of his country, Aladeen enjoys all the luxuries of his position: a massive palace, loyal soldiers, and a bunch of yes-men ready to build his aerodynamically incorrect nuclear weapons and rig his personal Olympics.

A trip to the United States to ease tense relations ends disastrously when a foreigner-hating official (played by an uncredited John C. Reilly) kidnaps Aladeen, cuts off his beard, and unwittingly sends him onto the streets of New York City, while Aladeen's body double — a half-wit hired to take an assassin's bullet — roams free at the United Nations with help from Aladeen's double-crossing chief adviser (played by Kingsley). On the streets of New York, Aladeen finds a job at a vegan feminist deli (managed by Faris), pisses off locals with his blatantly racist views, and teams up with an old acquaintance, whom he tried to have killed back in Wadiya, to reclaim his title.

Unlike Cohen's two mockumentaries, the jokes don't come easy in The Dictator. In fact, most of them are strained — the 9/11 jokes, the rape jokes, the masturbation jokes. Much is made of Aladeen's culture clashes (he's racist, misogynistic, and self-absorbed), but nothing new is laid out here.

Plus, Cohen doesn't seem to invest more much in the role other than another stereotyped accent. He tosses off jokes and visual gags designed to offend, but mostly they misfire. And a running joke about Aladeen harboring Osama bin Laden already seems dated. Like most of The Dictator's problems, you can blame the script, which was put together by four writers, including Cohen, an improv master who's at his best working without such constraints. Tethered to comedy's usual guidelines, he delivers a conventional comedy short on genuine laughs.

★★ (out of 5 stars)

The Dictator 

Dir. Larry Charles; writ. Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer; feat. Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley (R)

Recently in Screens & Tech
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus