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Film review

Robyn Morrison reviews the latest controversial blockbuster from Sacha Baron Cohen, The Dictator

No stranger to producing controversial spoof features following the successful Bruno and Borat films, Sacha Baron Cohen returns this year with The Dictator, a satirical comedy about a tyrannical ruler of the oil-rich Middle Eastern state of Wadiya.

This unashamedly immature parody centres around Aladeen, the Admiral General of Wadiya played by Baron Cohen who, as well as housing Osama Bin Laden in his spare room, is obsessed with owning nuclear weapons. Threatened with an invasion from US forces, Aladeen is called to New York to explain himself to the UN, unaware that his brother has hatched a plan to overthrow his rule by replacing the general with a double.

The treasonous plot removes Aladeen from power and leaves him penniless and unknown on the streets of America. Similar to the storyline in Borat, he amusingly struggles as a fish-out-of-water in America until saved by the charity of a feminist vegan store owner, played by Anna Faris, who comes to his rescue unaware of his past as a dictator and of their fiercely conflicting views.

The Dictator has been created around bad taste and is designed to be as silly as possible with shocking and unsubtle gags throughout. However, whilst Bruno and Borat can be forgiven for making embarrassing faux-pas and offensive remarks due to their lack of cultural knowledge, an audience may fail to warm to Baron Cohen’s cold-hearted dictator Aladeen who even in the final scene is determined to reject democracy in the country he has so lovingly oppressed.

The love story between Aladeen and his feminist saviour seems shoe-horned into a storyline thrown together by dictator jokes which, although funny, aren’t enough to keep the laughter going for the full 83 minutes, particularly as many of the ‘best bits’ were already shown in the trailer.

Even viewed with a glass of wine in the cinema The Dictator fails to raise little more than a muted chuckle and unfortunately does not to live up to the expectations set by a series of publicity stunts prior to its release.

This fictional feature lacks the edge of Bruno and Borat and the contrived gags and cameo appearances detract from Sasha’s off-the-cuff wit which made his previous films so successful.