Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Dictator

All Hail!

I had visited the Republic of Wadiya in North Africa, and it was great. Especially when the host is none other than Admiral General Aladeen, the Dictator himself. Sacha Baron Cohen seemed to have outdone himself with his latest character creation after the likes of Ali G, Borat and Bruno, and together with director Larry Charles who did the previous films in mockumentary style, their latest collaboration took a more fictional turn with Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandell and Jeff Schaffer contributing to the narrative, which in one work I'll summarize as: Wicked.

It's been too long since I went to the movies and laughed as hard as I did today, and I'm thinking it's probably since the mo-lei-tau days of the 90s in Hong Kong Cinema that something as irreverent as what's included here, can tickle my funny bone so hard, that it was an incredible laugh a minute for what felt longer than its 83 minute run time. OK, so sue me if I am laughing at everything that's politically incorrect, crass, rude, vulgar, racist, sexist, disrespectful and just about violating every iota of human decency. It's an outright comedy, so I guess having to lighten up with the silliness on display isn't really a crime committed.

Sacha Baron Cohen seemed to have outdone himself this time. When you were probably thinking with his Borat and Bruno films earning him some form of notoriety, here comes yet another creation that's just as no holds barred despite being scripted. Probably the best comedian in film at the moment, you got to salute his marketing and publicity machinery for getting him just about almost everywhere in character to earn that mind share, given that the Admiral General is a new character that hasn't appeared in the television shows that Cohen had done in the past. Modelled after the late dictator Gaddafi of Libya, everything and anything about dictators - their wealth, harem of women, and having whatever they say as law - get made fun of through wonderful satire, even if the story's wafer thin, the laughs specifically designed were incredible.

And it centers around the necessity of Aladeen to travel to New York to address the UN General Assembly, only for a plot hatched to replace him with his own decoy to sign off a new democratic constitution for his fictional country. But trust the Admiral General to survive outside his comfort zone, team up with a once political exile (that he thought had been executed), and to find genuine love in the form of an environmental activist, while in the running against time to regain his rightful place as leader of his country and prevent his losing of grip on his country. The villains are clear, and very much pointed at oil companies, and the Chinese, which in the film became the butt of many jokes which I suspect some may not find it amusing.

But in any case, The Dictator boasted the likes of Ben Kingsley (who would have thought!) as Aladeen's uncle Tamir, and another comedian in Anna Faris, who frankly in another movie would have been a marquee. Here she's clearly over-shadowed by Cohen, though that could be due to her character being there as the butt of some of the sexist jokes, and nothing more than to further reinforce the notion that dictators are lonely at the top, and all they really need, for the good of the world, is a good cuddle, love and attention, at least for his Dictator, who got the world's attention through his plans to own a few nuclear weapons. Other stars appear as cameos, such as Megan Fox playing a prostituting version of herself, and Edward Norton too in a somewhat similar role. Yes, Edward Norton. Really.

Even for the harshest of Sacha Baron Cohen's critics will have to agree that The Dictator does have its moments when it goes for the jugular in making fun of the politics of our time, the corruption that's permeating through what we like to think of as a fair system, and of course, the notion of democracy itself, by drawing some unlikely parallels between the woes of today's world against that of the democratic system. It's satire at its best, with excellent writing and flawless delivery all rolled into one that makes The Dictator truly memorable, especially when it knows when to pull its punches, and when not to for maximum effect.

Apparently our censorship tolerance level had been tweaked to relax a little here. While Sacha Baron Cohen's other two films Borat and Bruno were rated R21, with the latter having to suffer the removal of certain scenes, this one got away with M18, despite having male genitalia on display, and same sex kissing which would have automatically earned it R21 status many moons ago. So if you're game for a rip roaring rowdy time experiencing some outrageous comedy that will tickle you silly, then make a beeline for The Dictator, before he decides to take your head off for the lack of support. Highly recommended as one of the craziest film comedies of this year by arguably one of the best comedians in recent times who's not afraid to make fun of everyone and everything in no holds barred fashion. Stay tuned when the end credits roll for some extras, including scenes that didn't make it to the final cut.

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