Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Sacha Baron Cohen8/10
The non-stop jokes, off-color humor, slapstick and under 90 minute running time of "The Dictator" hearkens back to early Woody Allen gems like "What's Up Tiger Lily," "Take The Money and Run," "Bananas," and "Love and Death. And, in the world of comedy, that's quite a compliment.
Like Cohen, Allen's first films were often misunderstood. Some folks just did not get the joke. Many still don't get it today. The object of comedy has always been to take down the high and mighty by whatever means necessary. And, if you happen to be a Middle Eastern despot, you will find much to be offended by here. But, as Allen often did as well, Cohen uses racial and gender stereotypes to shine a light on people's attitudes, and that's likely to put off others as well. That's fine. Some comedy just isn't for everyone.
While his writing style owes much to Allen, his acting chops are also influenced heavily by one of Britain's greatest comics, Peter Sellers. You can see it in his outrageous accents and in his ridiculous pratfalls. Like Sellers, Cohen is fearless in his characterizations and, again, like Sellers, there will be those who will take offense in this. Again, not for everyone. But, if you laughed your butt off at Sellers' simpleton Indian character destroying a Hollywood party, you will be laughing here too.
And that's what we're talking about; laughs. Not every joke works. Many fall flat. But the film starts off fast and furious with a rapid succession of gags, most of which work hilariously, settles down for a bit and then takes off again, literally. His verbal sparring with co-star Jason Mantzoukas is one of the highlights as are many of the fun cameo appearances and a running joke about his name that I will not reveal here. There are many great sight gags that are easily missed and the appearance of his Efawadh character at the U.N. channels a scene right out of Allen's "Sleeper." There's a few scatological and sex jokes also (one about excrement, one about urination, one about masturbation, several about body parts), and these, if you ask me, are the low point of the film (except a child birth scene that's as funny as it is outrageous). But, the bodily fluid gags, so rampant in comedy films today, are actually few and far between. And there's a bit of a message, too.
We're not dealing with "Citizen Kane" here. But, then, this film made me laugh much more.