Review: ‘The Dictator’ (M) ★★★

SACHA Baron Cohen produced, co-wrote and twice plays the title role in this collection of gags, a mostly coarse romantic comedy that delivers offence for the sake of being offensive.

An acquired taste giving a slight flavour to substance, Cohen plays Aladeen, the dictator of the fictional small African republic of Wadiya, and the look-alike engaged to step in front of the assassin’s bullet.

Aladeen is a creature of whim, prone to condemning to a short future whoever crosses or slights him. His second-in-command is waiting for the chance to usurp him.

In New York to address the UN, he loses the beard by which he best known. During a street protest against him, Zooey (Anna Faris), who runs a health food store that caters UN functions, sees merit in his excessive behaviours but she’s only the hook from which the screenplay hangs what’s really its unconvincing romantic thread.

Perhaps this sounds like extracts from a plot going nowhere. Viewed from a distance, that’s a credible assessment.

Cohen knows how to make stupidity serve his purpose. His screenplay has fun playing with American politics and social institutions. He understands the value of keeping the comic pressure on his audience, denying them time to ponder why they have come to watch it. But all things come to an end. You might forgive yourself for emerging from it thinking: “Well, I laughed quite a lot. But now I wonder why.”

 

At Hoyts, Dendy and Limelight

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