The Dictator: Banned and Unrated (Bluray)

I love films that leave me speechless. Of course there is good speechless, bad speechless… than there is Sacha Baron Cohen.

Cohen first burst onto the entertainment landscape by creating the character Ali G, a British wannabe hip-hop TV show interview host. “The Ali G Show” premiered on HBO, and Cohen (dressed as Ali G) would interview heads of state, prominent newscasters, and pretty much anyone he could. The only problem was that Ali G would ask them about drugs, sex and any inappropriate thing he could think up. Some went along with the joke, while others walked off the set. Using the term hysterical was an understatement when describing what went on.

But Ali G was not the only character he dreamed up for the series. He also introduced Borat, an English challenged interviewer from the country of Kazakhstan… and Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion journalist.  Cohen has given us full length feature films for Ali G (“Ali G Indahouse”) and Borat (“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”), and “Bruno”.

The brilliance of these films is in Cohen’s ability to make regular people think the character is real and in doing so makes stupid people look stupid. Even after three years I’m still I awe of Cohen’s brazen willingness to endanger himself in front of the police, Texas Rodeo fans and high ranking politicians. I would like to add that aside from being a brilliant comic, Cohen is also a pretty decent actor having delivered star turns in “Talladega Nights” and “Sweeney Todd.”

There is no middle ground for Sacha Baron Cohen… you rather love him or hate him. “The Dictator” doesn’t do anything to win over those who hate him. It eschews the winning formula of his earlier ‘character’ films, which relied on the public not knowing who he was and therefore playing them for fools for our enjoyment.  Here instead we have an actual movie with an actual plot and real actors (even Ben Kingsley for God’s sake!!). But it is still full of Cohen’s obnoxious, in your face, over the top, highly offensive (to some) humor.

In “The Dictator”, Cohen plays His Excellency the Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen, the leader of the North African nation of Wadiya (and good buddy to the late Kim Jong-Il).  Aladeen rules with a fuzzy iron fist, killing any and all who oppose him. He has had many words in the Wadiyan language changed to ‘Aladeen’, he pays to sleep with Hollywood celebrities, and claims that the gathering of nuclear supplies if for (snicker) ‘peaceful purposes.

Enter his Uncle Tamir (the aforementioned Ben Kingsley for God’s sake!), who was the rightful heir to the throne after the passing of Aladeen’s father.   He concocts a plan that brings them to America and before the U.N. in order to take over the control of Wadiya and open it up to the West. What follows is the cultural awakening of Aladeen, or at least enough of an awakening to allow him a woman he truly loves and continued control over his beloved Wadiya.

While not quite as funny as his earlier efforts, I think in part due to the fact that we don’t have average people being made fun of, “The Dictator” still succeeds as a parody of some real life dictators. There is a lot of socio-political humor that will be lost on some but uncomfortably hits the nail right on the head of everything that is wrong with our current system of government.  One impassioned speech in particular about how America doesn’t know what it’s like to live under a dictatorship is especially telling as he spouts a grocery list of situations that we don’t experience… but actually do. Nothing like truth in humor.

The bluray release of “The Dictator” offers up a nice transfer, with a color palette that cleanly changes as the story moves from the deserts of Wadiya to the streets of New York.  The audio is well mixed as well, immersing you in sequences of protestors and again the city streets.

There are few special features, which was a little surprising. There are only a handful of deleted and extended scenes, a fake (but funny) music video and an extended version of the interview with Larry King. I really expected a bit more.

“The Dictator” is brash and offensive, brilliantly stupid and silly, and ultimately will be embraced by Cohen fans and bashed by everyone else.


Directed by: Larry Charles

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Chris Parnell, Jessica St. Clair, Jason Mantzoukas

Extras: Deleted and Extended Scenes; Music Video; Larry King Interview; DVD Copy; UV Digital Copy

Studio: Paramount

Release Date: 8/21/2012

MPAA Rating: Unrated



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