Movie Review: The Dictator- Sacha Baron Cohen is in Typical Crass Form but a Predictable Plot and Poor Comedic Pacing Anchor the Film Down

There are many words that can describe the humor routinely used by comedienne and personality Sacha Baron Cohen, including vulgar, sensational, disrespectful, politically-incorrect, or at times even senseless. But these are all the reasons we’ve appreciated Mr. Cohen because the undercurrent in his explicit humor relies on a deeply sociological test to push boundaries, which was always the point and clearly evident in his unscripted mockumentaries Borat and Bruno (not to mention his two year stint on “Da Ali G Show”). His latest film, The Dictator, is a sort of modern twist on the old Charlie Chaplin satire The Great Dictator (and perhaps a dash of Coming to America) and doesn’t deviate too much in his usual style of humor, though at times the film seems a bit tame compared to the others while also having a mean spiritedness this time around. And because of its mere sporadic outrageousness and change in documentary style, an unfortunate change since there are no embarrassing or moronic people to expose, the film might come as a disappointment for some devout fans who revel in the shock and awe tactics of his previous two films. However, the writers behind the film balance the relatively simplistic plot with political jabs and an unbridled insensitivity that includes mocking stereotypes, terrorism, hippies, environmentalists, the media, and the UN. Despite all of the successful edginess to most of the material all of the flaws of scripted material follow Mr. Cohen in this project where consistency and a rhythmic pacing are essential for a solid comedic film, which this particular film has a bit of trouble in both of those mentioned aspects. Unfortunately The Dictator isn’t Sacha Baron Cohen’s best film but it is also not his worst (it’s really difficult to upstage the horribleness of Da Ali G Movie) and his usual crudeness, while hard for some to swallow, carries the picture through the most of the flaws, which include a predictable plot, a poor comedic rhythm, and too much padding in between jokes. To summarize all the nonsense here, The Dictator has Sacha Baron Cohen in typical crass fashion in this outrageous political satire but the undertone of spitefulness exaggerated with platitudes and the lacking of consistent good material throughout make it a film that is enjoyable but not exactly funny through every minute. Hopefully this first outing with scripted material will be a guiding light for more outrageous and insensitive comedy in the near future.

Grade: B-

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