A couple of months after “The Dictator” played theatrically, I couldn’t remember whether I’d seen it or not. Complete amnesia. I tried hard to think of even one scene in this comedy starring Sacha Baron Cohen, but failed.
Ultimately, that’s how forgettable this film really is. That’s NOT the case with Cohen’s two previous films, “Bruno” and “Borat.” Those left a mark.
In “The Dictator,” Cohen plays a North African despot who is forced to come to New York to speak at the United Nations. Not his idea, really. But, NATO promises to start military action if he doesn’t.
While in the Big Apple, Admiral General Aladeen is kidnapped and gets his beard removed, but avoids being killed in an assassination plot cooked up by his assistant (Ben Kingsley.) On the run, Aladeen is forced to blend in with other expatriates of the Republic of Wadiya in NYC until he can hatch a plan to push aside the body double who took his place.
Okay, so is “The Dictator” funny? Yes, very much so from time to time. No big belly laughs, just a snicker or two along the way. Cohen was much funnier in his earlier efforts. Aladeen just isn’t scary enough. He’s a teddy bear really. And, then when we find out that no one was actually executed in Wadiya over the years, it makes him look even more like a cream puff. Cohen is trying to win you over as Aladeen, and he loses his edge by doing so.
Cohen remains a talented comedian. I like his anything-goes sense of humor. But, “The Dictator” feels like he was holding back to get people to like his character. Grade: C
Street Date: August 21, 2012
Versions: R-rated and Unrated
Runtime: Unrated-98 minutes/Rated-83 minutes
Released by Paramount Home Media Distribution