WARNING: VERY MINOR SPOILERS
It’s easy to offend people, but it can be more difficult to get people to laugh. The best place to test this theory is in the realm of amateur stand-up comedy. The sheer terror of an audience that doesn’t laugh at one single joke is enough to ruin a lifetime worth of pants. You could also say something completely outrageous to get a rise out of an audience, but a few loose bricks might fly your way before the chuckles do. Luckily, for some comedians people still love a good fart joke and if razor sharp humour doesn’t win the people over you can always let your mind splash around in the toilet for a bit. Actor/writer Sacha Baron Cohen spends a little too much time in the deep end of the loo in his new film ‘The Dictator’ and it sadly overshadows a few genuine moments of wit.
Haffaz Alladeen (Baron Cohen) is the dictator of the fictional African nation of Waadeya and on a daily basis he indulges his ego and fortune at the expense of his people. Alladeen is called to front the United Nations in New York City after his nuclear program angers world leaders. Unbeknownst to Alladeen, there is a plot the take advantage of his trip to take away his hold on the nation he loves to oppress.
‘The Dictator’ works best when it’s playing in the sandpit of Waadeya and poking fun at the concept of a despot inspired by the likes of Kim Jong-il and Muammar Gaddafi. A rigged Olympic Games, gold plated vehicles and the company of Megan Fox (for hire) highlight the ridiculous lifestyle. There is a fantastic gag early on involving the obscuring of the native language to please Alladeen that hints at something smarter at play in the film.
Unfortunately, for every single clever joke there are ten offensive or crude bits of humour to endure. Make no mistake, screenwriter Cohen along with fellow writers Alec Berg, David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer set out to offend and the lowlights include a how-to guide to masturbation, a Munich Olympics themed first person shooter and a birthing scene that involves a conversation through a woman’s vagina. On top of these moments of “humour” are the usual racial stereotypes we’ve come to expect from Cohen’s brand of comedy, but it’s a shame he has to go to such extremes to make his point.
Despite most of the terrible material, Cohen is good in the lead and Jason Mantzoukas is great playing his sidekick who balances out a lot of Cohen’s eccentricities.
The plot is uninteresting and the film is nothing more than a bunch set piece gags stitched together. A tinge of romance in the story is pointless and the last minute effort to make a comment on American politics feels like an afterthought to a sequence involving a woman’s breasts being milked like a cow (we’re not lying, it happens).
‘The Dictator’ has a few good moments but it’s like finding a needle in a pile of soiled nappies. If Cohen stays on this trajectory with his comedies, he’s bound to become the new Mike Myers and ‘The Dictator’ is only better than ‘The Love Guru’ by a hair.
‘The Dictator’ is released:
May 16 2012 Australia, US and UK.
The Popcorn Junkie