Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Movie review: "The Dictator"

Torture. Terrorism. Rape. Decapitation.

What? You don't find that stuff funny?

These are just some of the topics for jokes in Sasha Baron Cohen's 2012 comedy, "The Dictator," an over-the-top film that fires its comics grenades so widely it's hard to imagine that you won't find some part of the movie tasteless or offensive.
Sasha Baron Cohen as "The Dictator"

But that doesn't mean it's a bad movie.

Parts of "The Dictator" are extremely clever and funny. One of the best is a scenic helicopter tour in which two characters (Cohen and Jason Mantzoukas) from the fictional African country of Wadiya trigger a New York City terrorism scare after inadvertently mentioning perilous words "Porsche 9-eleven,"  for instance in their foreign language conversation.

The plot centers on the despotic leader of Wadiya, played by Cohen, who comes to New York City, loses his trademark beard and suddenly find himself an average powerless person. The rest of the story follows him falling in love with feminist store manager Zoey (Anna Farris) and trying to get his power back. It's not a deep plot, but it keeps things moving.

"The Dictator" probably has the funniest torture scene you're not going to hear that phrase very often you'll find at the movies. Tied and bound, Cohen's character manages to frustrate his tormentor by pointing out that his torture tools have all been eclipsed by newer models.

On the offensiveness front, there's jokes targeted at nearly everyone Jews, blacks, feminists, vegans, lesbians, Arabs, TV news hosts, and well, all of America. (Now that I think of it, there are no Mexican jokes. What's the deal, Sasha??)

Some of these jokes hit the mark, others miss so badly you might want to leave the room. There are cringe-inducing scenes involving a cellphone in a woman's uterus and the dictator's discovery of masturbation.

The question becomes: Are you willing to endure the bad stuff to get the good stuff?


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