Comedy - still one of the hardest nuts to crack. An explosion is just an explosion, a kiss just a kiss, but a joke...... can fall flat on its face or have em rolling in the aisles.
Baron Cohen, internationally at least, is always going to be remembered for his "red rag to a bull" characters of Borat and, to a lesser degree, Bruno. These two played up and then milked dry his knack for creating nervous laughter by showing just how dumb and ignorant people (mostly Americans) can be when introduced to a character that has no sense of boundaries or understanding of what is "PC."
His latest invention still relies on this style but Baron Cohen has gone back to his cinematic roots for shots at the funny bone. Rather than a loose story to showcase the public at their worst, here we have a stab at a proper film just like his Ali D Indahouse where the character not only has a journey and a learning curve but there is a definite beginning, middle and end to the plot. Not that the plot to The Dictator is something to get excited about or clear space on the mantle piece for any awards though.
Essentially a twist on The Prince And The Pauper tale, it sees the self-obsessed leader of Wadiya visit America only to be thrown into the down-trodden populace of New York and learn humility, love and understanding. Not necessarily all of the above to a degree where you'd want him as your best friend - this is after all from the mind that in Borat was excited to meet a real life "chocolate face."
What does work in The Dictator's favour is the refreshing scenario concerning the trailer. What you see in the trailer is not what you see word-for-word in the finished cut of the film. There are variations of the jokes yes, but the ones that made it off of the cutting room floor and into the can means that you haven't already seen the best bits even before the lights go down and the projector starts. That and the fact that, surprisingly, his latest offensive invention, grows on you. Not from the obvious scene that shows he just wants to be loved and cuddled after another sex session with a celebrity - Megan Fox from the trailer is only the tip of the iceberg it would seem as a whole wall of Polaroids will confirm - but in the formulaic-but-never-the-less-funny journey he takes to enlightenment. The montage of his turning the store around so as to impress Faris (the female love interest he mistakes for a boy dwarf at the beginning) inexplicably works - you shouldn't like him but you can't help it.
Not as cutting to the bone as Baron Cohen's previous efforts, it still has moments of sharp intake of breath humour, mostly around the undefined Arabic character on American soil and his observations rather than the Americans reacting to his presence. The helicopter scene is still laugh-out-loud and cringe-worthy at the same time and one of the films highlights but it does make you wonder why they didn't play up on the paranoia aspect abit more - after all it's not as if they're shy or anything!
Better then Bruno and Ali G Indahouse but not as "OMG" as Borat, this is a good film for friends to see then laugh over afterwards over a few drinks. All hail Aladeen - or else you'll be executed!
UK release date: 18.05.12