Critics will tear this film apart. The plot is flimsy, many of the performances two dimensional and most of all it’s missing Sacha Baron Cohen’s famous real-life, candid-camera moments with unsuspecting everyday people as in Borat and Bruno… but this is still his best work yet. The Dictator holds a big, fat mirror to the ludicrous nature of dictatorships still present in the 21st century and multiplies it with a strong Cohen dose of parody. Admiral General Aladeen, beloved oppressor of Wadiya thinks it’s cute when women go to school and likens it to watching a monkey on roller skates. In another scene, he delivers a baby and says: “I have bad news, it’s a girl. Where’s the trash can?”. Things that are said and done in this film are shocking but they are based on true events and perceptions held by some even today. The speech he makes at a UN convention towards the end of the film pointing out the ironies of the American state of affairs and its show of democracy is brilliant and the SNL-like portrayal of newsreaders and their annoying habit of describing at length even the most mundane details during a live report is cringingly accurate. That’s where the good stuff ends.
You may have noticed that I haven’t actually told you what the film is about, bringing me back to my second sentence, the plot is flimsy. A dictator gets replaced by a double in a conspiracy by his advisor (Ben Kinsley) to turn Wadiya into a democracy so that the western world can exploit the oil-rich country. Cohen escapes to New York and without his beard he is unrecognisable. He must find a way to gain back his title. The Dictator is badly executed, no pun intended but I like this new turn of exaggerated Michael Moore-esque filmmaking pursuit Cohen has taken. (Released May 16)