Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Dictator

Sic Semper Tyrannis..?

The Dictator features Sacha Baron Cohen in an acting role as a Qaddafi-like figure (he even has a golden gun) who comes to New York, falls in love and becomes slightly human.  Cohen is no longer trying to fool anyone into thinking that he really is Borat, Bruno or Ali G.  Cohen is an incredibly gifted and brilliant comedian who has made a career of provocative risk-taking humor experiments.  He thrives on skating on the edge.  The Cambridge-educated Cohen claims to have been sued more than any other living actor and it could well be true.

The movie begins with a moving dedication -- "In Loving memory...Kim Jong Il"!

Cohen then proceeds to rip the dictator lifestyle.  The film is allusive to Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" which mocked Hitler prior to World War II.  One could also compare it to The Emperor's New Clothes with Ian Holm about the taming and domestication of another dictator, Napoleon.  I found The Dictator incredibly funny.  

Cohen is ably assisted by Anna Faris who plays a somewhat butch organic market owner based in Brooklyn and his inevitable love interest.  She has appeared in the Scary Movie parodies among other films.  Ben Kingsley of Gandhi fame plays Cohen's scheming rival for power.

There are brief hilarious cameo appearances with Gary Shandling and Megan Fox.

The key to all good comedy is good writing and this movie has it in spades.

The conclusion of the movie is marred by a rather tedious scene in which Cohen would appear to endorse the bromides of the scruffy Occupy Wall Street crowd.  There is also a brief cheap shot at Dick Cheney.  These are balanced out by the rough treatment meted out to the tofu and spouts eating crowd in the Faris scenes.  For those with delicate sensibilities a warning: Whole Foods is mocked and derided!

The movie, while being consistently funny, does also touch on some incredibly serious topics such as nuclear proliferation, violent hatred of Israel, the danger of Iraq, racial and gender stereotypes.  By far the greatest question raised, however, is the broader question of tyranny.  What drives a tyrant?  How can the rest of the world deal with the reality of tyranny in our troubled world?  What happens when tyranny acquires technology that gives fuel to megalomaniacal dreams of conquest and destruction?

Another dictator, Napoleon, once said, "From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a single step."  The Dictator, however, suggests that from the "ridiculous to the terrifying may also be but a single step."

Mock the Casbah!

1 comment:

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