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Dictator, The


Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Jason Mantzoukas, Ben Kingsley, Megan Fox, John C Reilly, Bobby Lee

Director: Larry Charles

In Sacha Baron Cohen’s previous movies, he’s gone for laughs by taking advantage of real people and sending them up rotten in the guise of, variously, Ali G, Borat and Bruno.

The Dictator, in which he plays North African despot General Admiral Aladeen of Wadiya, is funnier, filthier, more foul, even more tasteless, gleefully scatalogical and just plain offensive than his previous pictures, thanks to the fact that this time Cohen boasts a screenplay (cowritten with Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer) to provide a strong story spine which encourages Cohen to act rather instead of taking ‘civilians’ by surprise.

As dictators go, Aladeen is appalling: winning Wadiya Olympic medals by shooting his competitors, he later turns out to have won several Wadiya Golden Globes for acting and his solution to all problems is to have rivals killed. Unfortunately for Aladeen his devious uncle and advisor Ben Kingsley (one of whose titles is Procurer of Women) persuades Aladeen to go to New York and make his case at the United Nations, a ruse devised by Kingsley to have the dictator assassinated and replaced by one of his pliable doubles.

Having survived a close encounter of the farcical kind with killer/torturer John C Reilly, Aladeen ends up minus his trademark beard on the streets of the Big Apple where he embarks on a ribald romance with yoghurt-weaving vegan anti-racist feminist-with-unshaven armpits Anna Faris. (Her armpits later become the subject for a joke so triumphantly crude that it might make even Channel 4 consider the film unsuitable for their special Christmas Day offering).

Cohen (who dedicates the film to the late North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il) clearly enjoys himself immensely and his enjoyment is infectious, Faris is perfect in her frequently embarrassing role (she and Aladeen end up plighting their troth inside the uterus of the woman whose child Aladeen is delivering on the floor of a shop. The scene is topped with Aladeen telling the mother “Bad luck! It’s a girl!’ then asking, “Where’s the trash bin?”. Kingsley is suitably slimy in one of his most entertaining roles in a long while

The story is well used by director Larry Charles as a framework for some of the lowest and lewdest humour that has ever rendered me breathless with near non-stop laughter.

Bad taste never tasted this good.

It’s tempting simply to reveal every gross gag but that would (a) unfair and (b) require far too many reviews. No, The Dictator needs to be seen to be enjoyed. Which I certainly did, even if I admit to being a tad embarrassed by my own clearly inherent bad taste. Mind you, Cohen beats me hands down in that particular area.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour.
83 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 19 May 2012