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Dictator, The (Blu-ray Review)

17 Aug, 2012 By: John Latchem

Street 8/21/12
Box Office $59.7 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images. Unrated version also included.
Stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Jason Mantzoukas, Chris Parnell.

A broad farce with shards of Dave and Coming to America, The Dictator is gleefully offensive. Its steady stream of racially and culturally insensitive gags mean this one isn’t for the faint of heart, but that shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with Sacha Baron Cohen’s previous films (Borat, Bruno, Ali G Indahouse).

Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen, Supreme Ruler of the North African nation of Wadiya, who is pretty much the amalgam of every crazy dictator stereotype imaginable. He’s not the brightest bulb, learning his nuclear science from cartoons as he orders the executions of everyone who displeases him, even men who are already dead.

Threatened with air strikes, he travels to New York to speak before the United Nations, when he is replaced by a doppelganger in a plot orchestrated by his uncle, Tamir (Ben Kingsley, who played a bystander to this concept in Dave), to sell Wadiya’s oil reserves, which Aladeen has thus far refused to do.

Aladeen escapes into the city and, unrecognized by anyone, gets a job at a co-op grocery store run by Zoey (Anna Faris) while working with the former head of his nuclear weapons program to restore himself to power.

The film is mostly uneven but funny enough to work through its flaws until it falls flat near the end when it presents itself as a politically astute commentary on modern democracy.

Both the DVD and Blu-ray include a “Banned & Unrated” cut that’s 15 minutes longer than the 83-minute theatrical version. Aside from some raunchier alternate takes and longer scenes, the biggest difference is a subplot in which Aladeen is targeted for assassination by a rather large-chested agent working for his uncle, the inclusion of which does cover something of a plot hole in the theatrical cut. This aside, for pacing reasons, the theatrical cut probably works better.

The only extras are a half-hour of deleted and extended scenes, many of which are also re-incorporated back into the film. There’s also an interview with Aladeen by Larry King, conducted after the Oscars red carpet stunt in which Cohen in character dumped the supposed ashes of Kim Jong-Il on Ryan Seacrest (which is mentioned in their discussion). Part of this clip are included in the extended cut.

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