I always had reservations about Sacha Baron Cohen’s sucker-punching humor.
“Borat” was hilarious, unless you happened to be one of the trusting Romanians who were mocked as ignorant peasants in the picture. “Brüno,” the less-successful followup, also had some funny moments, although not for Ron Paul, or possibly any gay people to whom Cohen’s fake-homosexual come-on to the grandfatherly politician might have seemed stereotypically predatory.
In any case, after “Brüno,” Cohen’s documentary formula for public humiliation appeared to have exhausted its possibilities – the six-foot, three-inch star had become too conspicuously famous to continue pulling it off.
And so now we have “The Dictator,” a movie that relies, not on queasy embarrassment, but solely on its story. Unfortunately, the story – a parody of a Middle Eastern autocrat not unlike the late Muammar Gaddafi – is strained, and the parody dated. Targeting a lunatic Islamist would have been audacious, if risky (I think we can assume that Cohen values his life). Taking aim at a more traditional madman with a chest full of bogus medals and a fondness for hot female bodyguards is risk-free, but toothless – Gaddafi already parodied himself, and was for decades a figure of media derision.
Read the full review at Reason.com.