CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
83 mins / Dir. Larry Charles
You see that trailer? It has more zip and charm than the actual film. That may have something to do with the fact that the trailer features many alternate takes that weren't used in the movie, as well as scenes that weren't present at all. Jokes that are short and punchy in that promo are stretched to breaking point in The Dictator.
It isn't awful, per se, and I'll admit that I did chuckle regularly throughout, but there aren't enough good gags to justify the godawful screenplay surrounding them. It's not guffaw-funny, but it's 'amusing', y'know?
Amusing in a sort of "83 minute film that feels like 115 minutes, a hackneyed plot and unlikeable one dimensional characters, sweeping generalisations that are at best wilfully offensive and at worst outright xenophobic, a swathe of cameo appearances from performers who probably thought this would boost their profile, a cunning twist on Character Development in that there isn't any, and a bitingly satirical monologue in the final act that seems to have been written for a GCSE project" way. Oh, and Anna Faris is on good form, because she irritated me as much as she usually does.
For the most part, 'laughing at the funny foreigners' seems to take the place of actual 'written jokes'. Attempts to turn this around and make pointed remarks about The West either fall flat on their face or are pulled off with the conviction of an errant child writing out lines. Any criticism the film draws in that respect will be justified.
When it's not goading the audience into gasping in disbelief, The Dictator tries its hand at a fish-out-of-water/search-for-the-hero type plot, but it's half-arsed and completely unconvincing. You never forget that you're watching Sacha Baron Cohen being Outrageous™. It's as if The Dictator is a recurring character from a generic sketch show, and his skits from the first two series have been edited together to sell on DVD.
I'll admit that I did enjoy the routine with the severed-head, but that says more about my sense of humour than the script itself.
Yeah, 3. What can I tell you, I did chuckle. The wooly-liberal inside me has a shameful sense of humour.
But it's not a film.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.