Remember that scene in Borat where a racist southerner at a rodeo in Texas tells the unassuming Kazakh Borat to shave his mustache because then he’ll look like “an Italian” instead of “an Arab”? Looks like the numbskull’s advice has gone unheeded, because Borat is back, and with significantly more facial hair this time. All Hail Prince Aladeen! Of The Fictitious State of Wadiya!
If you’re anything like me (actually, if you have an irreverent funny bone at all), you’ll walk away bowing in deft gratitude to the riotously funny new character from Sacha Baron Cohen in The Dictator. What’s more, you might even be surprised (or even shocked) by how sweet (and even sentimental) the movie actually is. Can it be that the man behind Borat and Bruno is a secret softy? Was all that satire really meant to make us love one another?
The Dicatator is not exactly like the final part of a trilogy: unlike Borat and Bruno, the movie is scripted. Whether or not Mr. Baron Cohen actually stuck to the script is something only he knows. He plays a spoilt, rich playboy prince from a fictitious North African country called Wadiya which is rich in (bingo!) oil. The character is an assault on modern political despots and the things they share with celebutards and playboys that litter tabloids. Aladeen is sort of a mish mash of Gaddafi, Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussen’s sons, and Dick Cheney (take that, Drudge Report). He also has a bit of Donald Trump, Lindsay Lohan, Kanye West, and Tom Cruise thrown in for good measure. Restraint, humility, intelligence, and self-awareness are not his strongest suits.
But suits he has many, mostly gold lined, but which bore him and so he heads to New York where he encounters typically backwards attitudes towards anyone who isn’t the “standard” American. Back home, however, his second-in-command Tamir (played with great mischief by Ben Kingsley) has stripped the prince of his power and leaves him essentially a king without a kingdom. Elvis must have felt the same way near the end, I imagine. How he learns to love others (and “awwww” himself) forms the major narrative arc of the story. You’ll be surprised by how touching it actually is. It is quite reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.
The movie is made, however, to make you laugh – and this it does in side-splitting spades. Baron Cohen clearly relishes playing these over-the-top clowns who live in alternate realities from the rest of us. His travails enable hilarious cameos from Megan Fox, John C. Reilly, and the Queen of Base Comedy, Anna Faris, who play versions of themselves that are both true and yet satirical.
Yes, the film is shocking, and yes it often makes you uncomfortable because you don’t know if what you’re watching is real or staged – or if that even matters. But mostly it is uproariously, screamingly, and decibel-defyingly funny. If nothing else, you should walk away knowing that you’ve just increased your lung capacity. Even Prince Aladeen would raise his hookah to that.