By Mike Smith
When a film opens with a dedication to the late Korean leader Kim Jong Il you know you’re going to be taking a politically incorrect ride. And when the film comes from the mind of the brilliant Sacha Baron Cohen, you know it’s going to be hilarious.
Unlike his previous faux documentaries featuring his characters Borat and Bruno, “The Dictator” finds Cohen starring as Admiral General Aladeen, the title dictator of the North African county of Widya. Aladeen rules with a heavy fist. Disagree with something he says, block his way on the stairs or forget to offer him the prize that came out of your box of cereal and, with a quick flick of his hand past his neck, you’re taken away. He has survived many assassination plots, mostly because his chief of staff (Kingsley) has a stable of doubles around whose main job is to get shot in the head. Tired of the atrocities going on in his country, the United Nations summon Aladeen to New York, demanding he address the group and his country’s presumed search for nuclear power. But when Aladeen finds himself on the outside looking in he must also look inside himself for the answers.
Sharing screenwriting duties with three others, Cohen has crafted a masterpiece of political incorrectness. No one is spared here, especially those of the Jewish faith. A devout Jew himself, Cohen proves that often it is necessary to point out our faults and prejudices with laughter rather than anger. The laughs are pretty much non-stop and if you’re familiar with “Borat” or “Bruno” then you know you’re going to see and hear a lot more then you’d expect in a film. Cohen is top notch in what amounts to a dual role, as are co-stars Faris, in a rare appearance as a comic straight man, and Oscar-winner Kingsley. Supporting turns by Aasif Mandvi, Chris Parnell and others keep the laughs coming at a very brisk pace. The film is accompanied by a collection of recognizable songs, though they seem new because each song is now sung in Widyan. The musical score, by Cohen’s older brother Erran, is also a fine compliment to the film.
In the kingdom of comedy there is currently only one ruler. Hail Sacha Baron Cohen!