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REVIEW: Sacha Baron Cohen Disappoints With "The Dictator"

Ryan Nunez |
May 18, 2012 | 12:53 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

 Paramount Pictures)
Paramount Pictures)
How can a movie that stars a genius and is rife with sexism, racism, beheadings and masturbation humor possibly disappoint audiences?

Pretty easily, it turns out. 

"The Dictator," starring the irrepressibly talented Sacha Baron Cohen as Admiral General Aladeen, represents the end of an amazing string of box office-smashing successes for Baron Cohen.

Even before Aladeen hilariously calls Anna Faris’ Zoey “Justin Beiber’s chubby double,” the audience will be bored enough to start pondering questions like, “Why was that guy in the movie and yet had no lines?”; “What was the budget of this piece of junk?” and “How much of this movie hit the cutting room floor?”

More shocking than quality actors with no lines and the borderline insulting 83 minute runtime is how miserably Baron Cohen seems to be mailing in his performance.

Everything Baron Cohen has previously touched in the last twelve years has turned to gold, regardless of if they were his own vehicles ("Ali G," "Bruno," Borat) or Johnny Depp’s ("Sweeney Todd") and Will Ferrell’s ("Talladega Nights"), and this was due mainly to the fact that he always gave his audiences and his material everything he had to give.

But while his severed string of hits could all be talked about in terms of billions, "The Dictator" will be judged in terms of viewers, or the likely overwhelming lack thereof--it’s always a bad sign when a movie opens with $4.2 million in the U.S. and Wikipedia literally needs all of one paragraph to encompass a film’s entire plot.

The truth is that Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the true Kings of Viral and he has always counted on word of his insane tactics spreading via the Internet and the grapevine like wildfire to get viewers off of the couch.

This reality will ultimately be "The Dictator’s" undoing as bad reviews and negative word of mouth will surely torpedo this film before it reaches the coveted $100 million plateau.

Despite "The Dictator" being a modern and well-cloaked homage to Charlie Chaplin and a prescient political critique on how far America has fallen in the eyes of the rest of the world, a few classic moments like a spectacularly offensive Nintendo Wii game and more than a few laugh out loud moments cannot save "The Dictator" from its pathetically choppy beginning.

The first twenty minutes leave viewers believing that Baron Cohen took half of the budget and just put it in his pocket and the last hour leaves the audience wondering, “Where was this effort in the first 20 minutes?”

Baron Cohen’s amazing streak of comedy classics is something to behold and movie goers likely will give him a pass for "The Dictator."

He has truly given audiences his all, which he deserves undying respect for, and he is unquestionably an improvisational genius.

Alas, "The Dictator" is not improv and the blessed days of Baron Cohen laying everything on the line may simply have come to an end. 

Reach reporter Ryan here.



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