FILM: Weapon of moronic destruction
Whether you love him, hate him, or just wish he'd bring back Ali G, Sacha Baron Cohen is back in the cinema with another buffoonish persona.
With The Dictator, Cohen and director Larry Charles thankfully scrap the pseudo- documentary style that worked for Borat but felt tired and indulgent by Bruno.
The shameless comedian donned a beehive beard to play the dictator of make- believe north African nation Wadiya.
A parody of egotistical and maniacal rulers - with a healthy slice of moron - Aladeen fills his days sleeping with Hollywood starlets (nice cameo Megan Fox), ordering executions, and playing video games where he gets to re- enact the assassination of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Cohen is Jewish, so he gets away with this, but it doesn't mean it's that funny.
The plot concerns a trip to New York to address the United Nations, where Aladeen is betrayed by his No 2 (Ben Kingsley), replaced with a doppelganger and left beardless in Brooklyn, the United States' most liberal community. It's a fun concept and there's some chuckles to be had as Aladeen is repulsed and captivated by bohemia in equal measure.
In a sense, it's like an updated Coming to America, but demented, profane and culturally insensitive.
The trouble with The Dictator is how frustratingly boneheaded and obvious it is; every snippet of political satire is predictable, every cultural putdown or parody working for the cheapest laugh possible.
Aladeen's love interest Zoey (Anna Faris) is an excuse for Cohen to throw barbs at feminism and immigrant- huggers, but the best he can do is make fun of armpit hair and disabled refugees.
On the political front, there's nothing sharper than a diatribe commenting on the hypocrisy of the United States' supposed land of the free. I could have stayed home and got the same thing from a below-average episode of Saturday Night Live.
Take away the scattershot, often scatological gags - Aladeen even takes a dump while suspended between two buildings, I, um, s. . . you not - there isn't much left for The Dictator to hang its hat on.
Larry Charles made his name on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm - and he's yet to prove he can hold our attention past 30 minutes. However, it is a small mercy of The Dictator that it gets us back on the street in under 90 minutes.
Sacha Baron Cohen devotees, knock yourselves out, but I'm waging more folks will walk out of the movie house talking about the trailer for Seth McFarlane's Ted than this weak routine of skits.
- Wairarapa News