Considering all of the appearances Sacha Baron Cohen has made recently as Wadiyan dictator Admiral General Aladeen, it’s hard to believe anyone could have not heard of “The Dictator” yet. From appearing on the “Today” show to spilling Kim Jong Il’s supposed ashes on Ryan Seacrest at the Oscars, it doesn’t seem like there’s a line the “Brüno” star hasn’t crossed yet. And to think, the movie has just come out today.
Though “The Dictator” ditches the tried-and-true formula of Baron Cohen’s previous works (“Da Ali G Show,” “Borat” and “Brüno”), reviewers don’t think the shift to a scripted comedy detracts from its overall hilarity. Admiral General Aladeen is a crass, outrageous and hysterical satire, just like the other Baron Cohen characters that came before him. Besides, the film is still 90 percent improv , according to leading lady Anna Faris, so it still feels a bit off the cuff.
So is the buzz surrounding “The Dictator” worth it? Keep reading to see what the critics had to say.
“Baron Cohen employs a comic range that ricochets between wicked political barbs and the lowest anatomical farce, to often funny and occasionally hilarious effect. This is his most conventionally formatted narrative film, without the pretense to catching people off-guard in real situations, and while it will prove too extreme for a portion of the mainstream public, Baron Cohen’s fans should generally welcome it to good box-office returns.” — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
“Even when sticking to a script, Sacha Baron Cohen leaves no target untouched: His new movie opens with a dedication to the memory of Kim Jong Il and closes with an anti-Semitic gag. If Groucho Marx were alive today, he would probably make movies like ‘The Dictator,’ British comedian Baron Cohen’s latest subversive romp and searing showcase of crass global stereotypes. Transitioning back into a scripted dynamic after his quasi-documentary performance excursions with ‘Brüno’ and ‘Borat,’ Baron Cohen loses none of his edge, combining slapstick inspiration and social commentary into a hilariously provocative blend.” — Eric Kohn, IndieWire
“Cohen and his co-star Jason Mantzoukas have a very strong and funny chemistry, and they play a lot of the film’s best scenes together. Anna Faris brings that same level of commitment that she always brings, and she earns some big laughs in the film. As with any rapid-fire comedy, supporting players get a chance to show up, score a few laughs, and then they’re gone, and there’s one sequence involving Kathryn Hahn that is so deranged both in conception and execution that I’m frankly amazed the film got its R rating without more edits.” — Drew McWeeney, HitFix
The Chaplin Connection
“Comparisons to Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ are inevitable, perhaps, but Baron Cohen doesn’t really seem to have any kind of political agenda in mind. Aladeen is just another larger-than-life idiot in the comedian’s repertoire, but there are plenty of laughs to be had at his expense.” — Alonso Duralde, TheWrap
The Final Word
“As a comic stunt and a political statement, the film seems to exist to support its climax, in which the ‘real’ Aladeen tries to sell America on the perks of a dictatorship but ends up illuminating America itself. (‘Your media would appear free but be secretly controlled by one person and his family!’ ‘You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group!’) As a punchline hammering home the film’s core polemic — basically, that ‘freedom’ and ‘tyranny’ aren’t black and white or mutually exclusive — it’s pretty great. But it doesn’t justify the film-long setup that precedes it. It suggests what could have been had Baron Cohen and [director Larry] Charles played the material a little straight and given the movie’s world stronger ties to our real world. Great satire, after all, is funny because it’s true.” — Karina Longworth, The Village Voice
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Dictator.”
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