A comical mixed bag of dictators
MOVIE REVIEW: "I'm a very hard man to please but, yeah, I admit he had me in stitches"
YOU'LL be a twit (by this I don't mean you're a Twitter fanatic, which is highly possible) if you don't laugh out loud by merely checking out Sacha Baron Cohen's larger-than-hair beard, when he portrays Admiral General Hafez Aladeen in The Dictator.
I'm a very hard man to please but, yeah, I admit he had me in stitches and gave me stomach cramps.
I made the mistake of knuckling down to some crunches on the morning of the screening and laughing was tantamount to being tortured by the CIA or KGB.
The beard is the starting point of the laughter. Then the dialogue, the nuances and the body language will leave you floored and teary from guffaws so that, for the next 83 minutes (that's how long the film is), you might deduce that you've lost your marbles. Yes, gone cuckoo.
But that's marvellous because Cohen did a sterling job - but he dominates the credits; I mean he's part and parcel of the team that produced and scripted the movie and he plays the lead character.
But I'd like to believe that on the whole he's not dictatorial and I say this because he had the decency to hand over the director's chair to Larry Charles.
I doubt, though, if Charles had a "free" directing role - there's just too much of Cohen's playful hand in the entire movie and it's adorably hilarious.
I think the movie is a comically mixed bag of African dictator, and I suspect that Cohen had the late Muammar Gaddafi in mind when he penned the script. There's also hints of Osama bin Laden the play on the beard, though he was not a dictator.
We're in north Africa, in the fictitious Republic of Wadiya where the General, as childish as ever, in a way taking a swipe at the US, is safeguarding his country's oil reserves and is doing everything in his power to prevent the sale of this product internationally.
Meanwhile, marshalled by a throng of bombshell female bodyguards, he's busy developing nuclear weapons, exactly the acts of terrorism the "West" is against.
And the General makes taking someone's life as easy as A, B, C - whenever he doesn't agree or doesn't like anybody he gives his honchos a hand signal to have that person annihilated (removed from the face of the earth). But to his surprise (it comes towards the end of the movie, all the people he orders to be eliminated are alive and kicking.
In fact, they have formed a watertight anti-General Aladeen alliance in the States, and he discovers this on his visit over there to address the UN which has summoned him.
But the biggest snake in the General's grass is his own uncle Tamir (exquisitely played by Ben Kingsley).
Tamir has the General kidnapped and has his prized beard shaved by his coward kidnapper Clayton (John C Reilly) and replaces him with a dumb lookalike in the hope to have the latter sign a new constitution that declares Wadiya a democracy. Tamir almost succeeds but I say no more.
The real Aladeen meets environmental and democratic activist Zoey (Anna Faris), an out-and-out Aladeen hater and the two fall in love. The circumstance under which they meet are hysterical, to say the least.
You must see The Dictator and de-stress.