Review in a Hurry: After months of Sacha Baron Cohen showing up as the character he plays in The Dictator—even ash-bombing Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet—the actual movie is here. The comedian's mix of politics and gross-out humor is funny, but the story is predictable and lacks bite. Did we ever need to see a Baron Cohen flick with a romance, even one with the always adorable Anna Faris?
The Bigger Picture: After his double—whose previous job was "guy who gets shot in head for me"—takes his place at the United Nations, Admiral General Aladeen (Baron Cohen), leader of the North African oil-rich country of Wadiya finds himself alone, unrecognizably beardless and homeless in NYC. He decides to play nice with Zoey (Anna Faris) who runs a hippie grocery store in Midtown Manhattan that's catering an upcoming peace summit. Aladeen's number two (Ben Kingsley) plans to make Wadiya a democracy in order to acquire foreign contracts for the country's oil.
Aladeen believes his people just want to be oppressed. Can he learn the value of democracy through his daily altercations with the citizens of the Big Apple? Probably not.
After Borat and Bruno successfully melded Baron Cohen's fictional-character-confronts-normal-people shtick, director Larry Charles and Baron Cohen ditch the gonzo set-ups for a far more conventional scripted story. Sort of a dirtier Coming to America. Gone are the OMG moments. Not to say that there aren't plenty of laughs and inspired scenes, but this is less a film and more just a collection of half-baked skits. Although, at a brisk 88 minutes Baron Cohen does have the good sense to keep it short.
Fans of Baron Cohen will no doubt find a lot to like anyway, like a bit involving a severed head. As Aladeen, Baron Cohen fearlessly tackles hot-button issues like racism, abortion, anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic sentiment.
But all of it comes across as a smattering of ideas instead of a cohesive whole.
The supporting cast doesn't really mesh well either. Having familiar faces like John C. Reilly and Chris Parnell keeps the tone very SNL.
Also annoying is that some scenes from the trailers—like the one with Megan Fox—have been replaced in the final version with different—less hilarious—takes, making the movie feel more akin to deleted scenes or DVD extras
The 180—a Second Opinion: The Dictator's soundtrack is one thing to salute. Peppered throughout the film are a handful of familiar all-American pop tunes (including "9 to 5" and "Everybody Hurts"), but once the lyrics kick in, we find out they're Middle-Eastern covers! Extremely catchy and definitely leaves an impression.