In his latest slap-around, push-all-the-boundaries comedy, Sacha Baron Cohen turns his aim at dictators of the world. Not necessarily specific to the middle east (the film is dedicated to Kim Jong-Il), I feel he's taking aim at the concept of dictatorship and as a disproportionate number of the worlds' dictatorships happen to be in he Middle East / North Africa, that's where the pointy rocket lands.
The genius in Cohen has always been his ability to make a caricature of an easy target, a backward Yakoff Smirnov, an impossibly flamboyant European Gay etc, and use the reaction of people around him to reveal the flaws and weaknesses in them. At his best, Cohen can lampoon American prejudice against foreigners by forcing them to react to one or lampoon the sexual repression of Western youths by blowing a kiss to a straight man. His weakness, however, is that the rest of his comedy is silly. Fart jokes and bad puns. He has no in-between, just genius and stupidity. What we came for, and filler
Therein lies the problem for The Dictator. All but a 60 second sequence in the last 15 minutes of the film is filler. One clever speech about how 'dictatorship could make America better' provided a much needed laugh, but the entire movie served as a vehicle for the delivery of that one joke. It's a film that really belonged as a short, or as a sketch in a Saturday Night Live ten years ago, film was the completely wrong medium for what he was trying to do. Good rendition of REM's 'everybody Hurts' in faux Arabic, and Sir Ben Kingsley is enjoyable whenever he's on screen, otherwise avoid this misfire.