“The Dictator” is Sacha Baron Cohen’s first attempt at anchoring his own scripted comedy and to all the naysayers who think he’s just an attacker of “little people”—he proves that he’s actually an attacker of almost everyone.
He plays General Aladeen, the ruthless leader of the fictitious Middle Eastern nation of Wadiya, who when not trying to keep a straight face when it comes to discussions of nuclear weapons and civil rights is bedding the best Hollywood has to offer.
Just when he is kidnapped (by John C. Reilly, in a funny cameo) on the eve of addressing the U.N., all part of a coup by his Uncle (Ben Kingsley), he must rely on an ex-nuclear scientist (Jason Mantzoukas), who he thought he had killed, along we several others who apparently are living in Little Wadiya, and a non-judgmental organic shop owner (Anna Faris), who he at first proclaims to be a hairy arm-pitted hobbit before falling under her particularly easy-going charm.
Cohen is a gifted comedian, cartoonishly mean and mis-guided. He manages to attack backward-thinking ideals held by leaders while also portraying them as man-children, just with nuclear weapons (there is a hilarious bit here involving a Daffy Duck cartoon).
That the character doesn’t come off as hate-able is actually quite something, considering what a gleefully and tastelessly rude (a stolen head gag, a mis-interpreted helicopter conversation gag), shockingly crude (running gag about world leaders molesting Hollywood stars), and cleverly poignant political satire (an uncomfortably right-on diatribe in the end about our own government) this is.
Cohen is obliterating that line and making sure you will be offended, some times going too far with unnecessary grossness before winning us back with something truly outrageous that will either make you laugh yourself silly or write angry letters. But that’s what this brilliant provocateur is all about.