The Dictator (2012)


Wildly hilarious. General Aladeen, dictator of Wadiya, attempts to stop the UN from ruining his oppressive regime.

Beware the following will contain plot detail.

Almost invariably introduced as the creator of Ali G, Borat and Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen is also an accomplished actor when it comes to major productions, such as in Les Misérables and Hugo (both highly recommended).  This is promising since The Dictator is Baron Cohen’s first go at fusing the two together.

The titular dictator, General Aladeen (Baron Cohen), and his family have long ruled over Wadiya. However, modern pressures of democracy have thus forced him to give a UN speech in America. Whilst there, an elaborate scheme devised by his uncle to replace him with a doppelganger is successfully hatched. Now homeless, he meets Zoey (Faris), a humanitarian, who offers him shelter and a job as he begins his journey to return to his rightful place as ruler. Personally, I don’t recall any more significant plot points as it shoots to and from comedic scenes, sometimes quite sharply. Regardless, judging a comedy by the depth of its plot is nonsensical, just like how General Aladeen measures missile firepower by how pointy it is.

There are so many laughs to be had in the jam-packed 90 minutes and, like the best of comedies, it’s very quotable.  Amongst those who share the joy of having seen The Dictator, lines such as “My great-grandfather fought in the American Civil Jihad” and “Allison burgers” bring smiles even though it was released in 2012. With Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy usually comes some level of stereotyping, but here with dictators there’s not much to feel guilty about, which makes it one of his most accessible works.

The result is very much a product of its time and, in my opinion, hugely underrated. The Dictator is not totally original (see Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator), it follows the trend of modern satirical parodies but is also unique in its own right.  Nor is it a landmark film that won global awards. Yet with its creative madness and lack of seriousness, if I were a dictator, this would make for mandatory viewing.


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