“Why are you guys so anti-dictators? Imagine if America was a dictatorship. You could let 1% of the people have all the nation's wealth. You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes. And bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education. Your media would appear free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family. You could wiretap phones. You could torture foreign prisoners. You could have rigged elections. You could lie about why you go to war. You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group, and no one would complain. You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests.”
- General Alladeen
Here’s what I wrote about this film back in May:
“Dictator Haffaz Alladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), the amoral leader of the small North African country of Waadeya, heads to New York City to deliver an important speech to the United Nations. His oil-rich empire is on the verge of invasion thanks to his yen to possess a nuclear weapon capable of striking into the very heart of America, and nothing nobody says to him, even his most trusted advisor Tamir (Ben Kingsley), will convince him to put his country on the path of peace and allow democracy to come to his lovingly oppressed subjects.
So that’s the setup for Cohen’s latest politically incorrect comedy The Dictator. From there, the movie concerns itself with imbecilic doubles, coups funded by unscrupulous oil companies and sinister Chinese politicians, contrived plots to get back into power and a romance with perky environmental activist, exuberantly portrayed by the always energetic Anna Faris. Wildly uneven, the movie is nonetheless exceedingly funny, more often than not director Larry Charles and his frequent collaborator and star hitting a shockingly hysterical bull’s eye.
Obviously, that makes light years better than the virtually unwatchable Brüno, and while that’s a good thing indeed I’d be lying if I said the pair approach the same rarified air of their close to brilliant Americana satire Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. But when this movie is good, it is very, very good indeed; it’s just when it doesn’t have a good idea as to what exactly it is it wants to talk about where the problems lay.
What do I mean? Well, for long stretches, which is saying something for flick that runs just under 90 minutes, Cohen, Charles and the rest of the writers aren’t entirely sure of what direction it is they want to go. They take various scattershot potshots at almost everything they can think of, but little of what they target hits the mark, the mid-portions just sort of sitting there trying to find a reason to exist making the relationship between Alladeen and Faris’ character never come to life as it probably should.
But when the movie deals with the dictator’s quest to return to power, when it focuses entirely upon his ideas to sneak into his former hotel room and take back over for the clueless double who has taken his place, the whole enterprise soars to ribald heights the likes of which you almost wouldn’t believe. From a sightseeing trip around the Statue of Liberty, to a journey to a revered Civil Rights era leader’s funeral, to a climactic speech that speaks right to the heart of the political discourse and corporate subterfuge putting a stranglehold on our own democratic processes, much of this verbal subterfuge had me laughing so hard I worried I’d pull a muscle. Cohen and Charles score direct hit after direct hit, making the stuff that doesn’t quite work not matter near as much as it probably would otherwise.
I don’t want to say more for risk of spoiling any of the gags or ruining many of the comedic surprises. Even to go into more detail on the facets I didn’t care for, and there are more than a fair share on that front, feels like it could potentially spoil some of the magic, so I guess I need to urge those reading to take it on faith that some of what transpires is a decidedly mixed bag of tricks. All that truly matters is that, for all its faults, The Dictator got me to laugh, got me to think and, more importantly, got me to ponder concepts and ideals I hadn’t before entering the theatre. While not great satire, Cohen’s latest is still pretty darn good, and it doesn’t take a despot to urge those partial to this sort of thing to take a chance on the buying of a matinee ticket.”
The Blu-ray contains a longer, unrated version of the film running 15 minutes, and I have to say that extra material doesn’t add anything of merit. The movie itself is still fairly hit and miss, the stuff that works beautifully so while the stuff that doesn’t falling as flat as a pancake. Be that as it may, The Dictator is worthwhile for a ton of reasons, and I’d say for fans of Cohen its borderline essential, the movie working even better in the comfort of one’s own home than it did in the theatre.
The Dictator is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.40:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and comes with optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
· Deleted and Extended Scenes (33:43)
· Music Video – “Your Money is on the Dresser” (1:35)
· Larry King Interview (2:49)
The obvious main extra here is the inclusion of the ‘Banned & Unrated’ version of the movie, but other than that there’s not a ton to talk about. The deleted and extended scenes aren’t particular interesting although they do give insight into the different directions to film potentially could have gone in. As for the Aladeen music video, it’s funny for about 30 seconds; unfortunately it lasts for over 90 of them. There’s also a longer version of the faux Larry King interview depicted in the film, but the less said about that the better.
The Dictator has a lot going for it, including a ton of laughs, and as such it’s a difficult movie for me not to recommend. It won’t be for every taste, of course, but the satire depicted does seem particularly suited to current events, and I think those with an open mind and a working funny bone might find plenty to mull over and enjoy if they give this comedy a look.