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Dear The Dictator,

Comedies get a pretty bad rap, probably because their bar for success is so low. All a successful comedy has to do is make people laugh, by any means necessary. Yet even though this may seem a mean feat, it is by no means easy. Not only that, but comedy can actually do some heavy lifting in terms of story, character, and even commentary on a social and political level. Comedies can help us see inconvenient truths, or come to terms with our own biases. Comedies are underserved, under appreciated, and capable of great things.

So with all of those possibilities, and given the aforementioned low bar, it’s surprising that you seem to fail on almost every level.

It’s hard to critique a comedy. Humor and fear are two reactions that are hard to qualify academically. I am terrified of heights, but some people climb for fun or jump out of planes. So I suppose it is worth mentioning that some people in the theater laughed at a few of your jokes. I, meanwhile, was left in a state of baffled confusion and slight disappointment.

Yours is the story of Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of fictional Wadiya. As played by Sacha Baron Cohen, Aladeen is the embodiment of every stereotypical assumption about the Middle East/North Africa. He is sexist, xenophobic, racist, callous and insensitive. Aided by his ego and his riches and his unlimited power, he’s become the most hated and inept and clueless dictator on the planet. That is, until his right-hand-man conspires with a group of international businessmen to replace Aladeen in order to open up Wadiya’s vast oil reserves to international sale.

This is a pretty rote setup, but one that offers a lot of opportunity for both comedy and commentary. Of course none of this goes exploited. Aladeen falls in with the proprietor of a local, organic food co-op (Anna Faris). She’s a fem-lit major, a green activist, and the embodiment of every negative liberal stereotype known to man. Will these two crazy kids ever work out their issues and perhaps make Wadiya a better place?

The answers to these questions aren’t as interesting or comical as you would expect. Everything is so easy, so predictable, that any sense of spontaneity or interest is sapped from the action. You never bother to subvert expectation, only play up to it in the most basic and meaningless of ways. Your very plot feels like something from the mid nineties, hoping to shock through excess or insult more than wit or intelligence. Nothing you say hasn’t been said before by a drunk college student… or maybe even a high school student.

Some people may find humor in this, but I can’t. Replacing normal words with gutural, vaguely foreign-sounding syllables is not new, or clever, or even funny. It’s just simple and insulting from a standpoint of laziness. No risks, no challenges, nothing. Stupidity in excess meaning and achieving nothing.

Honestly, there isn’t much to say beyond that. When a movie is too lazy to try anything new or do anything interesting, it is difficult to properly take it to task. Suffice to say that you’re a pointless, toothless film that squanders all of its potential for that low road.

And worst of all, you aren’t funny.

Not laughing,

Brian J. Roan

4 thoughts on “Dear The Dictator,”

  1. Jess says:

    I have to agree with you! Lazy and predictable are perfect words to describe this. There weren’t any jokes or references that I felt were particularly fresh. I chuckled at some points but overall it was so damn dumb that I kinda just wanted it to be over with. The only poignant moment was his president vs dictator speech but that can’t save a movie. It’s like Baron Cohen saw that as the point of this movie but that dialogue alone was the only thing to back it up.

    1. Brian J. Roan says:

      Even those speeches were just… really scattershot and filled with old references. It felt like one of those “Scary Movies” spoofs, but of supposedly timely comedies. That speech was one good idea in a movie of poor decisions, and it was supported by nothing that came before it. What a waste.

  2. Liza Campy says:

    Wow! I thought I was the only one who felt like this!
    I found this write up refreshing x

    1. Brian J. Roan says:

      Glad you liked the write up, and I hope you continue to visit our humble site.
      As for the film, it really is a let down. As much as I’m happy you’re of a like mind, I’m sorry you had to waste the time and money on it.

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