Movie Review: The Dictator (2012)

Posted: August 26, 2012 in Comedy


Hafez Al-Adeen is the dictator of a North African country named Waladiya.   Al-Adeen rules his country with an iron fist, killing all his political rivals or anyone that crosses him.  Al-Adeen’s closest confidante, Tamir (Ben Kingsley) is secretly plotting to replace Al-Adeen, with a goat herder lookalike.  Tamir is upset that Al-Adeen refuses to sell any of Waladiya’s oil.  On a trip to New York to adresss the UN about his nuclear ambitions, Al-Adeen is kidnapped by his American secrity guard, his trademark beard is shaved and he is tortured.  Al-Adeen escapes into New York City, and tries to get to the UN to make his speech, but sees he’s already been replaced by the goatherder lookalike.  The Al-Adeen lookalike has promised tp draft a Constitution,to make Waladiya a democracy, and promised to sell its oil to the outside world.  Outside the UN, Al-Adeen is saved from overzealous cops by a femanist named Zoe. (Anna Farris)  With nowhere else to go, Al-Adeen goes to work for Zoe at her non-profit, communal, natural food store.  Al-Adeen then meets his former chief nuclear scientist, Nadal (Jason Matsoukas) in Little Waladiya in New York City.  Nadal says Al-Adeen must break into the Constituional signing ceremony, kill the lookalike, and take back power.  As it happens, Zoe’s natural food store is hosting the Constitutinal signing cermony.  To complicate matters Al-Adeen is falling in love with Zoe.  Does his plan to return to power work?  Do his feelings for Zoe make his plans more difficult to execute?

This is an obvious satire of dictators like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Khadaffi, body doubles and female guard are the most obvious satirical targets.  But it’s much more than that, it’s also a satire of knee-jerk liberalism, in the form of the Zoe character.  A key to this kind of movie is that there are lots of jokes, and most of the jokes work.  There are some jokes clearly inserted for shock value and some of those jokes don’t work, but if you don’t like a joke, wait a few minutes and another one will come along.  It’s certainly not as funny as Borat, but Borat also had the element of surprise going for it.  Very few people knew Sacha Baron Cohen when Borat was released, now they know that anything goes in a Sacha Baron Cohen movie.  Cohen carries most of this film, by himself, and is very funny.  Anna Farris is ok as the militant feminist stereotype, Ben Kingsley is solid as an evil Hamid Karzai.  If you like Cohen’s brand of humor, you will like this movie, if you don’t, you will probably not watch it anyway.  The length of the movie is also good, less than 90 minutes, which is what a comedy should be.  Any comedy longer than 90 minutes becomes redundant and strains its premise, in my opinion.
The Dictator: Let it rule over 90 minutes of your time.

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