The Dictator

Year: 2012
Studio: Paramount
Director: Larry Charles
Producer: Sacha Baron Cohen/Alec Berg/David Mandel/Jeff Schaffer
Writer: Sacha Baron Cohen/Alec Berg/David Mandel/Jeff Schaffer
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ana Faris, Ben Kingsley, John C Reilly

The law of diminishing returns affected M Night Shyamalan steadily until he let go of the twists that had defined him since The Sixth Sense. By the time he gave them up in Lady In The Water it was too late and he's never quite regained the old cachet.

The same thing might now face Sacha Baron Cohen after his latest effort failed to really catch on with critics or light the box office on fire.

There are some laughs you don't expect (and which, even more pleasantly, aren't in the trailer) which make it fairly amusing to watch. Cohen has put a lot of thought into the character of Aladeen and it shows.

He's the iron-fisted leader of a helplessly corrupt Middle Eastern country called Wadiya, and when world concern starts to build about his pursuit of a nuclear weapons program, his closest advisor (Kingsley, playing a Middle Easterner for the second time after Prince of Persia) tells him he has to go to New York and tell the UN he's instituting democracy in Wadiya. The move will put everyone's minds at rest while they pursue their program covertly.

Once there, a menacing secret service agent (Reilly) kidnaps and intends to kill Aladeen, but after an argument over torture machinery, the latter escapes into New York, unrecognised and without any of his retinue or riches.

He has no choice but to fall in with a socially conscious feminist co-operative food produce owner Zoey (Faris) and the arc from there is pretty pat. While he plots to make his way back to power thanks to an exiled underground of former countrymen he's ordered executed but have escaped to the US, he becomes more enamoured with the hairy-underarm hippy.

The plot is little more than an excuse for the jokes, some of them crass but some of them pleasantly clever. It's not quite as bad as you might have been told, but it's no comedy classic.

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