August 18, 2012

Am pretty proud of this one. 

I’d missed the media screening of this movie but thanks to my editor, who specifically commissioned a review, I get to dissect this comedic gem. It’s off to Wadiya we go, buddies!

Happy is the despot in ‘The Dictator’

 Posted on 08/17/2012 5:47 PM  | Updated 08/17/2012 7:51 PM

MANILA, Philippines – There’s a turning point monologue in The Dictator, where a suicidal Aladeen is talked down off the literal ledge by his former nuclear weapons expert by, of all things, extolling the virtues of former fascists.

To which the depressed despot — played to hilarious caricature perfection by Sacha Baron Cohen — replies in that grand manner of half-insanity and half-illumination of all great villains: “I will become the greatest dictator of all, the envy of madmen everywhere! From the mountaintops of North Korea to the jungles of Zimbabwe, let every child laborer and sweatshop factory worker sing `oppressed at last, oppressed at last, thank god oppressed at last!’”

Offensive, hilarious and an extremely guilty pleasure crafted for adult consumption, really, this is another Baron Cohen gem.

It’s also another great team up with director Larry Charles, who also did the mockumentaries Borat and Bruno. I’d venture to say this one’s less offensive that Borat, though. See, even as The Dictator delightfully spoofs despotic states head on, it is also obliquely a commentary on how democracy can be the most nefarious dictatorship of all; specifically the US brand of “democracy.”

The first 10 to 15 minutes are devoted to establishing how the fictional Republic of Wadiya in North Africa is ruled by the eccentric, oppressive and lecherous Admiral General Hafez Aladeen. Known as Supreme Leader to his subjects and as “The Mad Dog” to the rest of the world, he’s someone who’s gone far into the deep end with absolute power.

He routinely changes words in the local language to Aladeen, surrounds himself with female virgin bodyguards, wins track and field races by shooting the other athletes, has people and animals killed for nothing more than getting the hidden treat off a cereal box and regularly brings over Hollywood celebrities to service him in bed (oh, to be a despot for a night with Megan Fox!).

He’s an amalgam of everything from Kim Jong Il to any of the Middle Eastern strongmen you can care pick — though I do prefer Saddam for the affectation with interesting facial hair. Also, Aladeen’s staunchly anti-Semitic, to which end he’s trying to wipe Israel off the map by building and developing nuclear weapons.

That last one in itself is a great bit of meta-comedy. Baron Cohen, you see, is a Cambridge-educated man born of a Jewish mother who was raised in Israeli, plus he’s performed in plays in the Habonim Dror Jewish theatre in secondary school. So, is it less scathing if you rag on your own race?

Read the rest of it HERE.


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