The Dictator (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Dictator (2012)

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It's finally happened.  We have the film so self-aware of it's offensive status it has it's stereotypes poking fun at other stereotypes assuming that's enough to win points in some imaginary race with itself.  The Dictator is a black hole, a void spot of disgust and insight, made by brilliant people too in love with their own joke they're playing on the audience to remember being funny.

This is not a movie I'm going to forget anytime soon.  It is the only film where the long-awaited kiss between the suddenly romantic leads happen while they are both inside someone else's vagina helping her give birth.  Before that it was the dictator's phone, bleeting out Funky Town, where I think we get the first ever cinematic glimpse of what a telephonic device looks like inside a vagina from the view of said orifice.

Every time laughter echoed through the theater I got more uncomfortable.  In Borat director Larry Charles and Sacha Baron Cohen took his caricature and used it to draw out the worst in Americans.  That movie was brilliant and featured a central wrestling match that had nothing to do with their characters ethnicity and everything to do with their rivalry.  They continued along those same lines to attack homophobia and high fashion in Bruno, a movie with a fake / real UFC fight turned riot that took some damn guts to film.

Now they've teamed together on the world's most demented take on The Prince and the Pauper, replacing a sadistic dictator with a puppet who milks the female guards.  The standard punchline to any routine is saying something racist, sexist, or just repugnant and waiting for the laughter.  There's not much in the way of setup.  Once Cohen, as Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen, starts off on how much fun it was to keep boys' eyes open while he's raping them I draw a line of acceptability.  Is there ironic juxtaposition to another, somewhat less harmful activity?  Oh golly gee yes, but the setup, delivery, and punchline is all child rape.  Repeat ad nausuem, with different taboos, and that's the entire appeal of The Dictator.

The target, once on display in the film, is now mostly watching the film.  Sure, you probably watched Borat and Bruno with more racists and homophobes than you realized, but imagine being seated around all of them when everyone in the theater is guffawing away when Aladeen and his lackey cut the head off a prominent black man to scalp his beard for a disguise.  Fitting in with the tradition of stereotypes in the film, said cadaver was a powerful drug lord when he was alive.

So we're left with a film where Chinese make fun of other Chinese for not being able to understand English.  The violent Middle East stereotypes mutilate cadavers for their powers.  Then, in a completely unnecessary point which finally drove me past the edge, decides to make the point that hardcore feminist women as no different than the dictators they fight against.

This film is an epic miscalculation, but remains just as memorable as Cohen and Charles' previous collaborations.  But the ultimate point of The Dictator is everyone's just a little bit racist.  Well la-dee-da, I hated this point when Crash dramatically intersected the lives of shallow stereotypes seven years ago, dressing them up in funny beards and having everyone behave like Middle America's worst nightmare doesn't do anyone justice.

Occasionally the film will reach so far inside itself that it manages to squeeze out a laugh through sheer force of absurdist will.  These moments are agonizingly few and far between, and punctuated by long waits while the stereotypes that know they're stereotypes put on a minstrel show for an audience who isn't supposed to laugh but do so anyway.  The merciful few able to get past the films agonizing level of superiority wince at what they think they're getting away with.

If someone asks, "Is child rape funny?" and the recipient answers "Yes" is there generally cause for alarm?  Absolutely.  Watch The Dictator, if only to build a lifelong memory of watching geniuses disappear into themselves while the frightening audiences chuckles at what now amounts to straight up horrific, no matter how many layers of postmodern self-reflexiveness the creators decided to insert.

Good luck.

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The Dictator (2012)

Directed by Larry Charles.
Screenplay Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer.
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Didn’t hate it but didn’t love it all that much either. A flick that made me laugh, although not as much as I was expecting to coming from Sacha Baron Cohen. Guess I got to go and watch Borat again. Good review Andrew.

    • Thanks for the comment Dan. I admit, there were still moments that made me laugh, and some of the more surreal images are going to stay with me for a long time. But overall it was a strange experience since the audience he was performing for in Borat and Bruno are now the people you’re sitting next to. Listening to the laughter cascading around child rape was a little troubling.

  2. I originally passed up this film anyway since I’m not really a fan of Cohen’s work. But upon hearing about that particular scene, I’m definitely going to pass this one up. Otherwise, great review!

    • Thank you for the comment Aidy. Admittedly, I wouldn’t mind getting the thoughts of someone already not in-tune with Baron Cohen’s comedic sensibilities, as it would probably be incredibly painful.


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