I loved the satire of Da Ali G Show – nomintaed for 6 primetime Emmys. Most exciting were the segs of reportage on UK life from [the then] little known TV reporter, Borat. And it was great to see a character like Bruno stick it up fashion.
Now Sacha Baron Cohen gives us The Dictator.
At his best, Cohen’s approach to his craft reminds me of Peter Sellers – a single absurdist character who by being nutty holds up a mirror to our own nuttiness. This is the most valuable gift an actor can give an audience. It is not to marvel at how great the actor is – but to give us a way to understand our ridiculous selves a little better.
At his worst, Cohen reminds me of Adam Sandler when Sandler is at his worst [cos sometimes he’s good – eg Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates and Punch Drunk Love prove Sandler can do good work].
I enjoyed The Dictator because I enjoy Cohen but I also have to let go of a few gripes. Instead of a terrifically woven satire from start to finish buliding to a mind-shattering realization about how the world works through the eyes of a dictator, Cohen has given us a rom-com with an isolated speech near the end about what his character has learned about democracy. The Dictator has been dumbed down so far, that not even a bikram yoga master could limbo under it.
I saw this dumbing down happen when Cohen took Borat from the small screen to the big screen and I understand why an artist does this – to reach a wider, dumber audience. But I don’t want art dumbed down. Give people an entertaining way to help them understand a difficult concept – don’t give them a lazy way to understand a simple notion.
If Cohen had have seized the opportunity for great and timely satire, The Dictator might have had a chance to be ranked alongside the great and timely satire of Charlie Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator [trailer below].
** Curious observation – notice how fashion repeats ad nauseum except for one item – Hitler’s moustache. It has never enjoyed a renaissance. I wonder who had it first – Hitler or Chaplin? And was it awkward when they bumped into each other on a red carpet?
Does Sacha Baron Cohen need to be more democratic or more of a dictator to keep his satire smart?
If you haven’t seen it already – you can view the trailer for The Dictator below.
I give the film 8/10 for what it could and should have been – and a 6/10 for what it turned out to be.
I mean – after Borat made more than $100m at the box office, was Anna Faris the best he could do? I’m not one to promote real-life partners co-starring in movies but maybe this was that one time Cohen should have cast his wife Isla Fisher.
It’s worth seeing for some of the severely awkward moments and lines of dialogue that no other comedian on the planet would dare to utter and a few ‘oh-no-they-di’-n’t’ cameos.
And here’s the 1940 Charlie Chaplin classic The Great Dictator: