Movie Review: The Dictator
Review by The Wall Street Journal
There comes a time in “Battleship,” a board game gone megabudget-ballistic, when the fate of our planet has seemingly been sealed by an attack from outer space. “We’re looking at an extinction-level event,” an astronomer declares, and it’s hard to disagree, what with the invaders’ stupendously powerful vessels, and the impenetrable force fields that protect them. Around this time, you may feel you’re looking at another extinction-level event, one that threatens the end of logic, storytelling, characterization, hearing and maybe even the movie business as we know it. Still, the planet is saved by a U.S. Navy lieutenant, backed up by the Pacific fleet, while the movie is enlivened now and then by lines that rise above intentional stupidity into inspired idiocy, and by occasionally stunning imagery that cuts through the computer-generated clutter.
Review by Slate
I predict that The Dictator (Paramount) is the movie that will siphon off the casual Sacha Baron Cohen fans from the hardcore ones. People who spent the fall of 2006 quoting lines from Borat about “making sexytime,” then found themselves laughing hollowly through the singing-penis scene in Brüno, may decide they’re through with the boundary-ignoring British comedian after this half political farce, half romantic comedy. For one thing, the stunt aspect of those first two films is absent for the first time. The Dictator is a fully scripted comedy (the screenplay is by Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer) with none of its star’s signature ambushes of unsuspecting public figures. This robs the movie of that anarchic, anything-could-happen energy that animated the first two features.
Review by The Atlantic
In David Mamet’s feature-film debut, House of Games, Joe Mantegna explained the art of the con thus: “It’s called a confidence game. Why? Because you give me your confidence? No. Because I give you mine.” Sacha Baron Cohen, who has for most of his career been as much con artist as comic, knows this well. For all their linguistic and ideological variety, the characters he inhabited on the big and little screens—Ali G, Borat, Bruno—shared an exquisite credulity. All three got their marks to believe them by being utterly open to belief themselves.
It wasn’t merely his victims who were being conned, though. In his two big feature films, Borat and Bruno, Baron Cohen laid the high low and the low lower—but consistently in that sequence. He would win the audience over at the outset by afflicting the comfortable, be they feminists, fashionistas, or famous folk. But by the end he was heaping ridicule on rubes or racists: the real suckers, not people like you or me or Sacha Baron Cohen. Funny as these bits sometimes were, there was a mean-spiritedness to them, an undercurrent of social superiority.