Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat hit at the exact right moment to become a phenomenon. It was a huge box office success and led to everyone quoting the movie until they wore it out (you don’t hear much about “sexy time” these days). But since then Cohen’s yet to find a goofy character that audiences have latched on to. Granted, he’s more subversive than – say – Michael Myers “Yeah Baby” schtick, but this year’s The Dictator wasn’t received that warmly in America. But – especially in the unrated cut – it’s laugh out loud funny in a number of places, even if it’s tied to a tired narrative. Our review of the Blu-ray of The Dictator follows after the jump.
Cohen stars as Hafez Aladeen, the dictator of The Republic of Wadiya. He rules with an iron fist (as to be expected), has people killed for minor offenses, and is protected at all time by thirty trained “virgin” women. After a recent assassination attempt he heads to America to deliver a speech to the U.N., but while there he’s kidnapped by an American (John C. Reilly) who shaves off his beard before failing to kill him. He heads to the U.N. but his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) was behind his kidnapping, and has planted a double in his place. He finds refuge with Zoey (Anna Farris), who works at a commune food market, and offers Aladeen a job.
While in America he finds Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas), a nuclear scientist he thought he had killed. The two work together to get Aladeen back in charge, but – of course – he develops feelings for Zoey and may actually want democracy in his country.
Perhaps the extended cut (which runs 98 minutes versus the theatrical’s 83) and home video lowers expectations enough to make this a fairly charming and routinely funny exercise. There’s a good couple of laughs every ten minutes or so, with a great set piece or concept that hits. Of course some stuff is broad and seeing Cohen play the evil racist is not exactly new, but there are plenty of jokes big and small that hit. Some stuff just doesn’t work, and the extended edition has the worst of it. There’s a woman with boobs so large that she uses them as a weapon, and it all leads to a prolonged booby fight that seems to have maybe been funny on paper. Perhaps it’s also because some of the extended cut seems unfinished; there’s obvious blue screen issues, and unfinished effects (my guess is the water that comes out of Cohen’s mouth is supposed to be blood in the fight). But the movie delivers enough laughs and set pieces to be worth watching, if only at home.
Paramount presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The presentation is immaculate for what the film is. It comes with fifteen extended/deleted scenes (34 min.) that are mostly extensions of material in the unrated cut. There’s also a music video which co-stars Isla Fisher (Cohen’s wife), and a Larry King interview (3 min.). The film also comes with a DVD and Digital Copy.