The promotion campaign attached to “Borat” was nearly as funny as the film itself.
And that’s saying plenty. But audiences are already tiring of Sacha Baron Cohen’s signature shtick, if the anemic box office results from his new comedy, “The Dictator,” are any indication.
American audiences were mostly unfamiliar with Baron Cohen and his coterie of characters before “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” hit a comedic thunderclap in 2006. The giddy combination of pre-written material and “Punk’d” behavior shook up the film comedy realm.
And watching Baron Cohen in character visit “The Tonight Show” and other media haunts made the film feel like a new breed of comedy.
Then along came “Bruno,” and it was clear Baron Cohen’s singular film genre had a short shelf life. The so-called reality segments felt forced, and the scripted material wasn’t much better. And the film arrived as a lecture about Americans ability to tolerate gay culture. Of course, it takes a pretty thick skin to endure Bruno’s antics, no matter his sexuality.
“The Dictator” finds Baron Cohen abandoning his own comedy sub-genre, but he held on to his madcap promotional blitz. He appeared on the Oscars’ red carpet and spilled the “ashes” of Kim Jong Il on a surprised Ryan Secreast. And for the past few weeks Baron Cohen’s Dictator character has been everywhere, all the while the comedian lets his character do the talking for him.
But the difference between 2006 and 2012 is startling in terms of media saturation – and savvy. We see right through Baron Cohen’s marketing moves, and his latest character isn’t as endearing, or outrageous as the U.S. and A. lovin’ Borat.
The box office results simply confirm that fact.