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THIS REVIEW DEALS WITH GRAPHIC SEXUAL CONTENT AND IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy
Cast
Sacha Baron Cohen as General Aladeen; Anna Faris as Zoe; Ben Kingsley as Tamir; Bobby Lee as Chinese Capitalist; Jason Mantzoukas as Nadal; Megan Fox as Herself
Director
Larry Charles (Brüno, Religulous, Borat)
Distributor
Paramount Pictures
In Theaters
May 16, 2012
On Video
August 21, 2012
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
The Dictator

The Dictator

General Admiral Haffaz Aladeen has simple tastes. He simply wants everything. And being supreme ruler of the oil-rich North African kingdom of Wadiya since the age of 6 has taught him that, indeed, "everything" isn't too much to ask for.

Why, ever since his father went out on that fateful hunting expedition and accidentally died from 97 stray bullets and a hand grenade, Aladeen knew he was meant for greatness. And the people have loved him for it. When he decreed that the words positive and negative must both be henceforth changed to Aladeen, they cheered. It made medical diagnoses more difficult, but they cheered all the same.

Now all he wants is a simple nuclear bomb. What's the big deal? But that accursed United Nations is sticking its collective nose in his business. And if he wants to continue his peaceful pursuits he'll have to deliver a flowery speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York City. So be it. Aladeen can do that. Aladeen can do anything!

Of course, little does he know that there's a plot afoot. His trusted advisor and uncle, Tamir, has been waiting for just such an occasion. Once they get to New York, Tamir is planning to have Aladeen kidnapped, tortured and killed—then replace him with a brainless lookalike. They'll announce the formation of a new Big Oil-friendly democracy and everyone will get rich. Why, Tamir can almost taste the ill-gotten pleasures already.

But the real Aladeen isn't as foolish as he seems. And torture? Ha! He cut his teeth on torture. He has a wing of his palace dedicated to that happy pastime. So he'll find a way out of this situation. After all, he is ALADEEN! (And he means that in the positive way, not the negative.)

Positive Elements

Aladeen embodies the worst, most obvious, most insulting, most irritating characteristics of Middle East dictators. He pegs the world-dominating megalomania meter. And there's not much in his attitudes or choices to point to as positive … so we'll move on to a New York City feminist activist named Zoe. She runs an vegan, LGBT-friendly health food co-op in Brooklyn … but that's not the point here. The point is that she warmly takes Aladeen in when he escapes his uncle's hired tormentor. It's with her help that Aladeen starts to finally see things from a slightly different perspective. And he actually starts to care for someone other than himself, even making some democratic changes back home.

An Aladeen lookalike throws himself in front of a bullet to save the cornered dictator. It may not be the best political decision he's ever made, but it's certainly a grand self-sacrificial human decision.

Spiritual Content

Aladeen mentions Allah and says, "Praise be to the creator."

Sexual Content

Roughly half of the film's sexuality is delivered in the form of jokes—ranging from arguments about a nuclear missile resembling a giant dildo to repeated comments from a Chinese official who talks of buying sexual favors from movie stars to a raw discussion of raping teen boy singers from the band Menudo.

The other three-quarters is image-based. A woman looks out her hotel window just as Aladeen, naked from the waist down, slams his genitals up against the other side of the glass. (We see everything.) His female guards strip down to bras and garter belts (some of them with fully nude backsides) and begin caressing an imbecilic goatherd Aladeen lookalike. One of the girls takes off her top to let him milk her breasts into a bucket. (It's a gag that alludes to the goatherd's animal-leaning "love-life.") Two women kiss, as do two men.

Aladeen rolls off after having sex with a semi-clothed Megan Fox. "You now have herpes," he pronounces. She climbs out of bed and gets dressed after being paid in diamonds. Aladeen has an instamatic snapshot taken with her and tapes it up on a wall full of similar pics—the celebrities represented ranging from Lindsay Lohan to Oprah to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When Zoe gives Aladeen a ride on her motor scooter, he grabs her breasts from behind. He approaches her with expectations that she should pleasure him. She refuses, then introduces him to a concept he's never heard of—masturbation. The camera watches his face as he gives it a try. Later, Aladeen and Zoe kiss and engage in foreplay. We see close-ups of him licking her neck, stomach and hairy armpits.

A guy performs (under-the-bedcovers) fellatio on Aladeen by way of a severed head. Another man mimes giving oral sex.

Violent Content

Aladeen and a racist kidnapper discuss tools of torture and the bloody damage they can do. The torturer cuts off the dictator's beard, then accidentally catches himself on fire and ends up writhing in agony on the ground. Aladeen discovers a guy stealing from Zoe's store and ties him up, attaching electrodes to his genitals in the back room.

Two Aladeen lookalikes are shot in the head. In one case we see the top of the dead man's head blown off, brain matter exposed. Aladeen and a former Wadiyan nuclear scientist, Nadal, slip into a funeral home and cut off a corpse's head (out of the frame). Aladeen makes several crude statements about killing Jews. He enjoys playing an anti-Semitic first-person shooter Wii game called Munich Olympics. It involves shooting and beheading Jewish Miis.

An Aladeen lookalike roughly pushes a woman into a table. Aladeen kicks a boy into a stack of boxes.

Crude or Profane Language

About 15 f-words, including a few that show up in a rap track. We also hear s-words, "c‑‑ks‑‑‑er" and "a‑‑." God's name is abused.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Aladeen downs some booze.

Other Negative Elements

A newborn (naked) Aladeen is shown with a beard and lots of thick pubic hair. Later we see him in his underwear, and the pubic hair is even more in abundance.

Aladeen attempts to help a woman who's going into labor, but ends up sticking his hand and forearm (just off-camera) into the wrong orifice several times. When he accidentally loses his cellphone within the straining woman, the camera angle shifts to inside her womb so that we have to watch his attempts to find and answer it. After delivering the child, the dictator nonchalantly asks, "Where's the trash can? It's a girl." Later he asks his pregnant wife, "Are you having a boy or an abortion?"

Aladeen yanks a man out of a bathroom as his urine stream continues to splash on the door, wall and floor. An Aladeen lookalike urinates into a pitcher, drinks some of it and then spills the rest on Jewish dignitaries. Suspended high above the street, Aladeen empties his bowels, splattering a woman below.

To prove that his wife can't speak English, a Chinese man calls her several rude names, including "shaved ape." During a tourist-laden helicopter ride over Manhattan, Aladeen and Nadal cause a panic by speaking to each other in their native tongue—with English words for the Empire State building and 9/11 sprinkled in. (They're actually talking about a Porsche.)

Near the movie's end, Aladeen decries the nuisances of a democracy and slyly enumerates the advantages of living outside the law—as a dictator. His list includes: social control by an extremely wealthy 1%, the freedom of the state to declare war without justification, the freedom to tap phones and torture enemy prisoners, the ability to manipulate the public with a willing press.

Conclusion

There are all kinds of people with all kinds of tastes. I have a friend who, in his travels, has eaten everything from fresh mountain oysters to warm monkey brains. And he found the experiences to his liking.

Me … not so much.

I've tried simple sushi dishes that just about made me lose more than I took in.

The same principle applies to entertainment. And while debates about food aren't moral exercises, fights over films can be. Some people crowed about Sacha Baron Cohen's past cinematic fare—movies that saw him donning offensive personas, baring private body parts, and ruthlessly ambushing unknowing celebrities and middle-American dupes (Brüno, Borat).

Me … not so much.

Crude, crass, raw, obscene and shocking don't make me giggle.

This time around, Baron Cohen switches from improvisational burlesque to fully scripted farce—a farce that's so thinly thought through that it's really nothing more than a skeletal clothesline on which to hang a shaggy beard, a phlegm-cacking accent, a load of political black humor and several baskets full of vulgar, racist and misogynistic rhetoric. It's all designed to make you suck in your breath and think, "Oh. No. He. Didn't!"

I'm sure that somebody out there will find these noisome jokes and sight gags about abortion, child rape, racism, masturbation, religion, ant-Semitism, STDs, ethnic cleansing, public defecation, war crimes, necrophilia, bestiality and body hair to be somehow entertaining.

Me … not so much.

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