- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
The cheeky man who gave the world Borat and Brüno returns with The Dictator, a mischievous and original tale of a deposed dictator toppled from lavish luxury who must crawl his way up from absolute bottom to regain the post of ruler of Widaya. On the heels of the Arab Spring – as a number of nations took to the streets to protest, and in many cases overthrow their rulers, The Dictator is both topical and brutally funny at times (though not always as on-mark as it could have been). As Syria has descended into civil war in an attempt to overthrow the rule of Assad, this film finds itself both mocking and shedding light on the absurdity of authoritarian rule and rulers.
Studio: Paramount Pictures
US Rating: Unrated and R Versions
Film Length: 83 Minutes / 98 Minutes
Video: MPEG-4 AVC 1080P High Definition
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Release Date: August 21, 2012
Review Date: August 26, 2012
“Why are you guys so anti-dictators? Imagine if America was a dictatorship. You could let 1% of the people have all the nation's wealth. You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes. And bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education. Your media would appear free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family. You could wiretap phones. You could torture foreign prisoners. You could have rigged elections. You could lie about why you go to war. You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group, and no one would complain. You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests.”
Admiral General Aladeen, brutal dictator of the North African country of Wadiya, travels to the United States of America to address the general assembly of the UN and respond to the international pressure for him to give up his pursuit of nuclear technology (he claims it is for peaceful purposes all the while developing a nuclear missile). Once he arrives in New York, he is abducted but escapes to the streets with shaggy clothes, no identification and his trademark beard stripped from his face. Meanwhile, his body double addresses the UN and declares an intention to draft a constitution and transform Wadiya into a democracy. Aladeen is outraged but helpless. He must lower himself to holding a job and plots to regain power as one of the world’s most despised despots.
There’s a deliriously subversive quality to Sacha Baron Cohen’s full-immersion characters. Similar to his popular Borat, Brüno and Ali G characters within whom Cohen dives completely, General Aladeen is a socially unaware (and without care) misogynist and erstwhile heartlessly selfish brute. Proficiently delivering politically incorrect snaps and playing out his bumbling, suspicious authoritarian character, Cohen is enthralling to watch. He is accompanied by Anna Farris who co-stars as the tree-hugging manager of a Vegan grocery store in Brooklyn. It is here that the former dictator must earn his keep. Farris is a skilled comedic talent herself though here shows more restraint than her appearances in the Scary Movie franchise. Ben Kingsley (with whom Cohen worked in Martin Scorsese’s excellent Hugo) portrays the back-stabbing assistant to the Aladeen - a man orchestrating the underhanded coup. He does well here.
The Dictator runs down a list of general taboos, gleefully exercising a lack of restraint and being as naughty as possible with the cadence of a confidently-swinging metronome. Not every joke is unsurprising, nor every line that Cohen seeks to cross is as ‘controversial’ as he might have believed, but the cumulative effect gives The Dictator a level of boundary pushing that is certainly within Cohen’s wheelhouse.
Dotted throughout this film, directed adeptly by Larry Charles of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame (Charles also directed Borat and Brüno), there are a number of familiar faces (Megan Fox, Edward Norten, Chris Parnell, J.B. Smoove), each adding a minor ingredient that spruces up the overall flavor of this original comedy. John C. Reilly’s (Step Brothers) brief turn as a xenophobic secret-service-type guard assigned to Aladeen (and his eventual abductor) is quite terrific. The end result is surprisingly good; strong production values, some solid talent on screen, a few nifty visual effects, and a poking and prodding of the funny bone that is entirely cleverer than the basic premise outwardly seems.
Personally, I have not been a fan of Cohen’s films. I realize the comic skill and dedication involved but alternately found them to not be my cup of tea. The Dictator plays with a more traditional narrative (similar to his Ali G Indahouse movie) and, more scripted, is more appealing. For those who were not fans of Borat and Brüno, you might find this to be true for you as well.
The Dictator arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount Pictures with a quality HD presentation. Colors are vibrant; detail is sharp, black levels deep and issues all but non-existent. New York City loses some of its typical cinematic grey in favor of the brighter color approach which serves the comedy story appropriately. The green of the fictional nation of Wadiya’s flag is found throughout the film and is pleasingly bold (all hail Wadiya!).
With a score by Erran Baron Cohen and the bustling sounds of New York City providing ample and full audio in surrounds, The Dictator is given lease to shine. With a boisterous at times English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, the audio provided is superb. As expected, dialogue is clean in the center channel and without issue, the LFE alive with various sounds of torture rooms, nuclear weapons facilities and crowd sequences. A pretty darn good job.
Blu-ray Theatrical and Unrated versions of the film
Deleted and Extended Scenes: 15 scenes running 33 minutes 43 seconds adds a number of very funny moments.
Music Video: Your Money is on the Dresser (1:35)
Larry King Interview (2:49): The full interview with Larry King
DVD Theatrical Version of the Film
Ultraviolet Digital Version of the film
This ‘Banned and Unrated’ edition of The Dictator adds about 15 minutes of footage not seen in theaters – some of it raunchier, but it doesn’t change the overall effect of the film. If you enjoyed the film in theaters you will enjoy either version. If you were not a fan, the extra footage won’t give you cause to renegotiate the deal. The Dictator is original, well-made and funny though its general approach may not hold appeal to broader audiences. I can suggest at least checking it out.
Overall (Not an average)