October 30, 2012

The Dictator (2012)

Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris



Let me just get this out of the way: Sacha Baron Cohen (hereafter referred to as "Sacha" because typing out three names every time is really annoying) is a freaking genius. Regardless of what you thought about Borat or Bruno or any of the rest of his eccentric alter egos, he is a freaking genius for coming up with unapologetically offensive characters that test the limits of uncomfortable humor. I mean, this dude is so convincing in his portrayals of fictional people that a sporting event recently played his fake Kazakhstan anthem instead of the real anthem!

The Dictator is a throwback to the original days of South Park, where no one and nothing was off limits to mock (fast forward to the controversy over the depiction of Mohammed and Chef quitting over the Scientology episode and it feels like South Park has been much more tepid since then). The racial jokes are offensive and Sacha delivers them with such sincerity that makes it ok to laugh at them instead of feeling uncomfortable for thinking they're funny. Go ahead, laugh. Racial jokes are funny. If they weren't, comics would have gone out of business a long time ago. You know what else is funny? The jokes about Brooklyn. These might not be fully understood by everyone, but living in San Francisco has given me a special appreciation of organic markets, girls who refuse to shave, and protests. In fact, I'm fairly certain people move to this city just so they can have a protest to participate in every single day, no matter the cause.

The movie has lulls, of course, as no movie can really be funny from start to finish. And Sacha seems to have a penchant for making his characters sympathetic and heartwarming, if that's possible. So sometimes that puts a damper on the humor too. But overall, I appreciate his willingness to not just cross boundaries, but leap over them to the point you sometimes feel too uncomfortable to watch. Good for him.

Final word: I wish Sacha didn't feel the need to show his penis in every single one of his movies, but other than that, The Dictator is a fitting addition to his repertoire of character movies.

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