My brother and I are six years apart in age; the family joke is that we are so far apart because that is how long it took my parents to recover from having me. Because of that age gap, we didn’t spend a lot of time hanging out beyond the home growing up. We never attended the same schools. Most of our childhood, we didn’t have a lot in common – a 16 year old girl has absolutely no patience with a ten year old boy. We’ve found much more common ground as adults, but now we’re both busy with jobs, friends and life in general. So when I invited my brother to go with me to an advanced screening for The Dictator, it was kind of a big deal. While we were waiting in line, we discussed the last time that we had gone to the movies together and decided that it was to see Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. We did the math – that was twenty years ago!
I wish I could say that the movie lived up to the momentous occasion, but it did not. The Dictator was a one trick pony, a joke that went on far too long. It could have made a pretty funny sketch on SNL. But even with a running time of 83 minutes, the movie was too long and played out.
In The Dictator, Sacha Baron Cohen once again immerses himself into an outrageous character. This time he is Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of the fictional northern African country of Wadiya. Not surprisingly, Aladeen does not have the most enlightened views when it comes to women and other minority groups and has a bit of an itchy trigger finger when it comes to execution. He lives live to excess, is full of vanity and rules through fear and intimidation. He comes to American to attend a meeting at the UN and hilarity (allegedly) ensues.
I didn’t hate The Dictator, but I thought that they beat the jokes too far into the ground. Around the twentieth time Aladeen says something that most people would find offensive or inappropriate, the shock value is gone. And unfortunately there isn’t much more to the movie than a very calculated attempt to be appalling and to try and generate an “I can’t believe he said that” vibe in the audience. Problem is, I totally believed he said that, since we’d already heard the jokes in a slightly reconfigured way earlier in the movie. Shock for the sake of shock gets old pretty quickly. The rest of the story was pretty forgettable as were the other characters. Anna Farris did her best in her role as a possible love interest for Aladeen, but she isn’t really given much to do except react to Cohen which is a waste of her comedic ability. There are some random cameos that pop up that were kind of fun, but in general a lot of people I find funny participated in a film that ultimately wasn’t that hilarious.
I also started to get a little uncomfortable with the audience was laughing at some of the more derogatory jokes in the movie. They were laughing just a little too long and a little too hard, which made me start to wonder if they were laughing because of the ridiculousness of what he was saying or if they were laughing in agreement of the sentiment and stereotypes. I’d like to hope it was the former, but I was getting a weird vibe after some of the jokes that made me feel a bit uneasy.
There are laughs to be found in The Dictator, but the weak premise and storyline means that these jokes are repeated until every last ounce of humor are derived from them. And then they tell them one more time for good measure. There just wasn’t enough material there to justify this being made into a full length movie. It’s just too much of the same thing over and over again. I’d recommend The Dictator as a rental, but it isn’t worth your time and money to see it in the theater. If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ve basically seen the movie.
It was a rough movie going weekend for me – first the disaster that was Dark Shadows and then the mediocrity of The Dictator. Here’s to hoping that my luck turns around soon.
The Dictator opens nationwide Wednesday May 16th.