The Dictator could have been a good movie about the power of bad marketing. Star Sasha Baron Cohen was known for his subversive humor and using stereotypes to make a point, but the initial promos for this film made it look like a hackneyed, sad “Larry the Cable Guy” style film.
As it turned out, The Dictator was much better than advertised. Sadly, it was still a pale version of Cohen’s potential.
The story revolves around the head of state of a fictional country. He becomes stranded in the United States (minus his trademark beard) and must adjust to life in the U.S.A.
He finds a job with Zoey, a cookie cutter version of your Portlandia style new age hippie. Zoey is played by comedy mainstay Anna Faris, whom I always enjoy seeing even when the source material is weak.
The fish out of water stuff can be funny, as is the stereotypes manipulated and toyed with. The movie falls flat, however, when it just runs with stereotypes instead of tweaking them or using them to make a “point.”
There are also a lot of poop jokes, which I usually love and which are good about half the time (oddly, the biggest poop joke fell flat for me – if you’ve already seen the film, you can pick out two puns!).
A movie like Borat had a great mix of humor and politics. Bruno moved away from the clever writing and still The Dictator moves further. Cohen and director Larry Charles (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Religulous) have teamed up on all three films, and I wish they had really let loose and gone creative. Basically, for me, this movie could have done so much more with its premise. The Dictator falls within the realms of Hot Shots and Scary Movie if it’s lucky, where it could have possibly become a transcendent comedy, as memorable as Bridesmaids or Borat.
As an aside, Ben Kingsley was in this movie. Whaaaaaat?