‘The Dictator’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 26th, 2014 at 7:18 pm,

The Dictator Review starring Sacha Baron Cohen Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris The Dictator Review

The Dictator is more like a raunchy Mel Brooks comedy, and although Cohen and Faris are all amusing, there is a distinct sense throughout the film that you’ve seen this all before.


Sacha Baron Cohen is best known for creating comedic characters that often walk the line between silly caricatures and sly social satires that mirror our own stereotypes. Ali G: IndahouseBorat and Brüno were all clear evidence that Cohen has something relevant to say, and that he has no problem having a little fun (sometimes at our expense) while doing so.

With The Dictator, Cohen has offered up his most cohesive (and possibly instigative) film yet – but whether he’s laughing with us or at us, or whether or not you enjoy the punch line, are the questions hanging over this send-up of politics, personal philosophies, and everything in between.

Cohen stars as Admiral General Aladeen, supreme dictator of the oil-rich African nation of Wadiya. Aladeen lives the good life of a dictator – hiring celebrities for sex, executing whoever he wants – until his burgeoning nuclear program stirs a confrontation with the U.N. Aladeen heads to New York to reiterate his life-long commitments to oppression and keeping Wadiya’s oil out of foreign hands, but he is betrayed by his closest advisor Tamir (Sir Ben Kingsley), who has long wished to sell Wadiya’s oil to foreign interests, thereby opening the country to the world.

Megan Fox in The Dictator  The Dictator Review

After barely escaping an attempt on his life, Aladeen finds that Tamir has replaced him with a mentally-challenged body-double who will sign a new constitution in a few days’ time, thereby turning Wadiya into a democratic nation. With his imperial beard gone Aladeen is all but unrecognizable – just another poor immigrant wandering the streets of New York. He is taken in by a new-age leftist feminist vegan pacifist named Zoey (Anna Faris), who runs an organic grocery store – but old dictator ways die hard, and Aladeen soon learns that he must adapt a new approach to civil relations if he hopes to find allies in his mission to save his country from freedom, and deliver it back unto sweet oppression.

The Dictator, as stated, is probably the most cohesive narrative yet for a Cohen film. Unlike his previous efforts (which were more like collections of sketches wrapped around a loose premise), the film has an actual story to tell, with legitimate character and narrative arcs. The story’s themes are familiar (walking a mile in another person’s shoes, etc.), but the twisted way in which they are conveyed is where the humor comes from.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Jason Mantzoukas in The Dictator  The Dictator Review

Sacha Baron Cohen and Jason Mantzoukas in ‘The Dictator’

Cohen co-wrote the film with Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer – the minds behind the criminally underrated Eurotrip - which is evident in the alternating mix of witty (sometimes scathing) satirical humor, and lowbrow slapstick/ potty humor. While the film offers laughs on both the high and low roads, some people may be put off by the sheer amount of shock-value humor, as Cohen and Co. use this outrageous character to offend just about every (and I do mean every) racial/political/religious/gender/sexual group there is. If you are at all sensitive to, or put-off by, crass humor, you will not last long in The Dictator (a young couple in my screening certainly didn’t).  The finale of the movie is also likely to be controversial for some viewers; without spoiling it, let’s just say if you are the type of American who is not open to having your politics and patriotism challenged, you too will want to avoid The Dictator. Consider yourself warned.

While the film – Cohen’s third collaboration with Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm guru Larry Charles – is competent and effective, at this point the formula is beginning to feel somewhat old. If you’ve seen Cohen’s other films, you pretty much know what you’re getting with this one – and unlike Borat and Brüno, this film doesn’t have those delicious slices of real-life where Cohen encounters unsuspecting people, whose reactions to his outlandish behavior were often the funniest things about his films. The Dictator is more like a raunchy Mel Brooks comedy, and although Cohen and Faris – and the parade of comedic and celebrity guest stars (keep an eye out) – are all amusing, there is a distinct sense throughout the film that you’ve seen this all before. When the jokes hit, they really hit, but a lot of the time is spent on juvenile antics – a lot of which are long past their expiration dates (it’s so funny, Arabic language sounds like throat cough!).

Anna Faris and Sacha Baron Cohen in The Dictator  The Dictator Review

Anna Faris and Sacha Baron Cohen in ‘The Dictator’

The amount of sheer laughter I heard during the parts of the film showcasing low-rung stereotypes or gross-out jokes – compared to the more silent moments when Cohen uppercuts viewers with some scathing satirical commentary – left me wondering whether The Dictator was indeed a bit of witty fun, or rather just further affirmation of very real ignorance, and stereotypical thinking. (For instance, how many people will get that Aladeen is – as he says at one point – not an Arab but an African? Or is John C. Reilly’s bodyguard character reflecting an ugly truth when he responds, ‘You’re all basically Arab.’)

The question of whether the character, or the audience, is in fact the butt of the joke looms large over much of Cohen’s work – but this sly/insightful portrait is one that the comedian has already painted, and re-painted, and painted again. How many examples of the same idea can a comedian successfully convey on film? I, personally, would answer with: “Not many more.”

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The Dictator is now playing in theaters everywhere. It is Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. “criminally underrated Eurotrip”

    Damn it Kofi, I do hate having to agree with you, but I agree about that.

    • Eurotrip was is one of my favorites as well. I still might see this, but it’ll have to be a matinee.

      • This isn’t a cinema film to me. But I do want to see it, love Ali G and Borat, wasn’t so keen on Bruno.

        • For the record, I’d put it his films with Larry Charles like this:


          From best to worst

      • “This isn’t where I parked my car”

      • Eurotrip? The movie about a high-school grad and his friends who go on a trip to Europe in search for a hot German girl?

        I thought that movie was pretty mediocre actually. (I loved the bit at the end with the little hitler-kid though – but that was the only part of the movie where I actually laughed out load.)

        • “laughed out load.”

          ewww … gross. :)

          • Hehehe, sorry… ;)
            I just mean that that was the only time in the movie where I actually laughed. All the other “funny” moments weren’t so funny to me.

            • No need to apologize … except for the mental image. ;)

    • Scotty doesn’t know!!

      • So, don’t tell Scotty… :)

  2. Heard Cohen on bob and tom this morning talking about the deleted scenes from Borat. I would like to see those and out takes make it in dvd someday.

    Aside from that I am excited to see the dictator, but I will miss the reality side if things. Cohen has become so recognizable now that I don’t think we will ever see a Borat 2.

  3. I’m not the type of guy that gets offended easily, and I’m not even an American, but I was sure that this movie would be terrible… now however, I’m not so sure anymore…
    I agree with DSB though, I’ll see it when it hits DVD or TV, but this isn’t a cinema movie for me.

  4. I actually work at a theater, and we had about 10 people for last night’s midnight premiere (including my three friends and I). I’m pretty sure I genuinely laughed throughout the entire film (the fake names with Fred Armisen was probably my favorite). Not too sure how the other people in the audience felt, all were above 25 and pretty much ran out of the theater right as the movie “ended”. Only one guy, I think about 30, stayed for the little outtakes at during the credits and left with a smile. I’m curious to hear what people think when I work again on Saturday.

    Also, did anyone catch Eugene Mirman in the movie or did I just miss that part? I was pretty bummed.

  5. I totally hated Borat, and this sounds like it’s not too far off of that character. Yes I’m older so I really don’t see the entertainment value in just acting like a jerk for the sake of being a jerk. Hell…If I want that I can find that in real life all over the place so what’s funny about it? Too bad though….From some of the trailers I thought this might actually be funny, but from the review….I really doubt it…

  6. It’s really his same old “edgy, confrontational” mockumentary scthick, life-supported by trusted mainstream reviewers and “bloggers”.
    Baron Cohen is a fairly good “serious” actor but indulges himself with these “hilarious” gimmick-y duds… Borat had a few moments, Bruno was a self-indulgent mess, this one looks the circus left town and forgot to tell him. That’s the problem when you lock yourself in a room with 4 comedy writers who are mirror reflections of each other.. every done-to-death “trope” (Screenrant’s fave new word) is convulsing everybody in the room. Sasha should do 3 years of SERIOUS FILM WORK, then come back with a laugh-fest.

    • i believe the only people who will get uncomfortable and be affected by “the dictator” are americans, they usually does get sensitive once the “stick it in their face” humor comes in . . then brand it as awful and other negative labels . . that’s pretty ironic though considering HUMOR in america more than usually revolve around making fun of the rest of the world, but when time comes people make fun of them, they get angry and retaliate, yep, the “retaliate” is more than appropriate….

      “hey USA sucks”
      “you take that back or we’ll declare war on you!”
      “but you already have”
      “well…we’ll declare war on you..twice!”

  7. I dunno. I found the last trailer pretty funny even if I could see where it was going.. actually that kinda made it funnier for me. I kinda avoided Bruno as the character seemed a bit too nasty compared to Ali G and Borat. This looks good, I’m keen to see it in the cine.

  8. That looks like a grand’n we’re gannin tommorow at that darlo odeon place

  9. Not a fan of Cohen and it doesn’t sound like this movie will change my mind. Definitely gonna pass on this one. The Avengers will have another $10 from me this week!

  10. If you want to watch political satire at its best then just watch Dr Stangelove or even Team America, Derka, Derka.

  11. Why does he always have full frontal male nudity in his movies! Why, just why!

    • It wouldnt be a Sacha Baron Cohen movie without a flopping penis somewhere in there. It came so late in the movie I was almost shocked thinking it wouldn’t pop up! (puns intended)

  12. I don’ think I have ever laughed so hard at a movie before….I thought it was wicked….wickedly funny and soooo politically incorrect as usual. I was surprised to see a mother there with her three kids though, all under the age of 12 I would say…..maybe scarred them for life.