The Dictator (2012) – Film Review

dictator review

Director: Larry Charles
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley
Certificate: 15

by Dan Berlinka

The Dictator is a tasteless, scattergun, but often very funny comedy of buffoonery. The gags come so fast, particularly in the first half hour, that even if one fails there’s another right behind it.

Subtle it ain’t, notwithstanding a tiny bit of satire near the end. But then the excesses of cult-of-personality dictators aren’t subtle either and are utterly deserving of ruthless mockery. Although some of that is blunted by the predictably redemptive fish-out-water story that you’ve seen so many times before.

But even though it’s supposedly only the despot of the title that holds the deeply offensive views displayed throughout, the relentless racism and misogyny may leave you feeling a little queasy. It’s not always clear if we’re laughing at or with the litany of racial and sexual slurs.

the dictator film review sacha

“Gags come so fast”

Still, while this is not Baron Cohen’s finest comedy creation, he nonetheless remains a hugely entertaining performer. Sir Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris offer restraint and credible support regardless of all the nonsense around them. Special mention also for a fine comic performance from Jason Mantzoukas. The scenes he shares with Baron Cohen are among the film’s highlights.

Overall your enjoyment probably depends on the mood you’re in and the people you see it with. If there’s laughter all around you, you’ll most likely find it too infectious to resist. But if you’re sitting with a stony-face through the opening five minutes, you might as well leave. The slapstick and scatology yet to come is unlikely to win you over.


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