The Dictator

The Dictator featured image

Reviewed by Marc Glassman

The Dictator

Larry Charles, director

Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen (Admiral General Aladeen), Ben Kingsley (Tamir), Anna Faris (Zoey), Jason Mantzoukas  (Nadal)


The buzz
A master of hype, Sacha Baron Cohen has made a large part of the Western World aware of his new film The Dictator. Mind you, not everyone can afford to run a trailer of an upcoming film as a Super Bowl commercial. Cohen does—and the trailer effectively conveyed that The Dictator would parody Muammar Gaddafi’s life and political style.

Then, he spread a rumour that he was banned from the Academy Awards for threatening to appear as the Dictator. In the event, he did show up at the Oscars (where, of course, he hadn’t been prohibited from appearing) and dropped the “ashes” (actually pancake mix) of Kim Jong-il on an E! host.

Cohen has since appeared on programmes ranging from Saturday Night Live to The Daily Show spreading the word on the film.


The genres
Slapstick comedy; satire


The premise
The Dictator of a North African republic, Wadiya, Admiral General Aladeen is a womanizing, infantile, anti-Western despot. In other words, he’s having fun at the world’s expense. When the U.N. threatens sanctions against Almadeen and Wadiya because he might have “weapons of mass destruction,” the Dictator decides to fly to New York to address the Security Council. While in Manhattan, Almadeen is kidnapped by his own hitman who is secretly working for his perfidious uncle Tamir.

Almadeen escapes from the hitman but not before his beard is shaved off, making him look like, well, Sacha Baron Cohen. No one believes he’s The Dictator. Meanwhile, Tamir is using a very, very dumb body double of Almadeen to impersonate the tyrant.

Almadeen stumbles on a section of Manhattan called “Little Wadiya” and strikes up a friendship with Nadal, his former head scientist, now exiled in New York. Together, they decide to sneak The Dictator into his hotel, get rid of the double and thwart Tamir’s plan to “democratize” Wadiya, allowing elections while actually selling the country’s natural resources to the Chinese.

Almadeen starts working for Zoey, a health-food commune activist, who (remarkably) is going to cater the big party that will be thrown at the U.N. when the fake Almadeen signs the paper offering Wadiya its human rights. Of course, Almadeen falls for Zoey—but not necessarily for democracy.

Will love win? How about democracy? Do we care?

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