When one of Sacha Baron Cohen’s successful TV characters was first span into a movie (‘Ali G Indahouse’), the crucial error was made of making it an entirely scripted affair, when his best material all came from his interactions with people who believed he wasn’t playing a character. His triumphant return 4 years later with ‘Borat’ saw a return to the TV show formula, resulting in huge success. However despite its popularity, his particular brand of comedy seemed to get very old very quickly, ‘Borat’ does not stand up to repeat viewings and by the time the excessive and inferior ‘Bruno’ was released it was starting to feel tiresome.
He’s opted to create a new character for his latest project and has again dropped the interactions with unsuspecting ‘real’ people, this time round it seems like a good idea though.
Indeed, on paper a lot of ‘The Dictator’ sounds like it could produce comedy gold, taking on subject matter few dare to; ridiculing and satirizing fascist dictatorship.
However, even with its highly amusing set up, it never really hits the mark.
It also doesn’t want to keep General Aladeen as the butt of the jokes. He arrives in America for a conference and is betrayed by his right hand man and replaced with a brainless double who will turn his country into a democracy. After an admittedly amusing exchange with a would-be torturer played by John C. Reilly, he is left to fend for himself on the streets of New York. From this point on he retains some of his previous characteristics but the film now wants us to root for him in his predictable quest.
The problem though, is the film just consistently fails to deliver the laughs it should. On the one hand it has many opportunities for biting political satire, but more often than not it goes for obvious physical gags and juvenile toilet humour, with a worryingly large number of gags centred around masturbation. A big disappointment.