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The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.
For more about The Dictator and the The Dictator Blu-ray release, see the The Dictator Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 16, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Larry Charles
Writers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Chris Parnell, Jessica St. Clair, Jason Mantzoukas
» See full cast & crew
The Dictator Blu-ray Review
Thanks to the Wadiyan treasury and His Excellency the Admiral General for the sum of 2.1 million Wadiyan dollars donated for the purpose of this review.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 16, 2012
You go to the bathroom after Usama you will realize the true meaning of terrorism.
If it's a Sacha Baron Cohen movie, there's going to be a fair amount of low-brow and potentially insulting humor, but also a good deal of genuine character-driven fun. The actor's latest Comedy is The Dictator, an ofttimes brilliant story of a strong-armed but out-of-touch North African dictator who travels to America to avert disaster but instead discovers all the glorious things that have been missing from his life, like masturbation, a real girlfriend, and the benefits of going green. But it's not all fun and games and executions of anyone who stands in his way, questions his authority, or dares make him perform an honest day's work. The movie sometimes sinks fairly low and loses track of what makes it tick -- brilliant political satire, chiefly -- a little more than it should, but the genuine gut-busting humor and Cohen's rhythmic portrayal of a madman gone comically insane saves the movie from falling flat. In fact, Cohen's character is so over-the-top that The Dictator extends well beyond the mere political Comedy/Parody and into something else altogether, something so outrageous but at the same time absurdly honest that it practically forms its own genre. This is gross humor at its finest and satire at its best, meshed together quite unlike any movie has done before. All hail The Dictator.
Wadiya is a rogue North African nation with an iron-fisted dictator in charge and secret nuclear facilities racing to produce weapons. The nation's dear leader, His Excellency the Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat), has promised the international community time and again that his nation is developing nuclear power for peaceful use, for energy production, not warmongering and certainly not to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. Aladeen may believe himself something of a benevolent dictator at heart, yearning to cuddle with prostitutes and creating a life-sized scrapbook of his paid sexual conquests in his bedroom. However, he orders others killed left and right, and the populace worships him at the threat of death. He's in firm control of his land and its oil; he was elevated to his position when the nation's last dictator passed over Wadiya's rightful heir in exchange for Aladeen's promise to never sell off the nation's oil reserves. But everything changes. The international community threatens airstrikes on Wadiya if it doesn't comply with United Nations nuclear inspectors. Aladeen is given a final ultimatum: he must appear before the U.N. in New York to explain his nation's actions or face dire consequences. Aladeen travels to the Big Apple where he enters like a king and is welcomed like a mass murderer. On his way to deliver his speech, he's kidnapped and nearly killed. His beard is removed but he escapes with no other harm except now, his body double has taken his place and has vowed to sign a new democratic constitution and, with the sale of Wadiya's oil, enrich the ruthless Tamir (Ben Kingsley, looking a little too much like Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai). Now, Aladeen must somehow convince the world that neither he nor Wadiya will stand for such things. He happens to meet a kindly progressive organic market operator named Zoey (Anna Faris) who takes him in and sets him on a path towards, perhaps, a slightly more benevolent and green form of dictatorship, assuming he can seize control of his rogue double and treacherous handler before he destroys everything the dictator has worked so hard for in Wadiya.
It may be in bad taste to laugh at some of the extreme humor found in The Dictator -- jokes of 9/11 and suicide vests shape the film's funniest sequence, for instance -- but take everything at face-value and accept it all as a take-up on some of today's most prominent issues and peoples and ideas and realities, and audiences will find the movie downright hilarious, particularly those more politically-savvy audiences who keep up with world events and understand the modern global landscape the film aims to tackle. The laugh-out-loud antics begin and end with Cohen's performance, a near work of art in his caricature of a generic third-world dictator who's so caught up in himself and his own ambitions that he loses sight of what matters outside of his own bubble, who is so drunk on his own power that he cannot see what's happening beyond the moment or past the people who are purportedly doing his bidding. The performance works so well because it's so simple. Cohen's character is neither complex nor interesting; it's the mere presence and the basic functions the character performs that make the movie so funny, and it's Cohen's ability to take such a stereotype and grace him with every conceivable power-mad dictator flaw that the movie transforms a sobering real-world affair into one of the funnier flicks of the past few years.
The Dictator isn't perfect, however. The movie stumbles through some scenes that, even in the "unrated" cut, could stand a trimming or a deletion altogether. It's not that a battle with a super-sized busty woman's bare breasts or a birth-giving scene in which the General probes the pregnant woman's innards are necessarily unfunny, but they hurt the narrative flow by escaping from the core story's boundaries in favor of going to places the film need not explore. Those core boundaries are more than capable of humoring audiences, proven time and again as the movie hits its stride every time the focus is on Aladeen's views and the politics surrounding his country's fate. It's when Aladeen is playing a terrorist-themed Wii game, cussing out his lavish hotel for charging outrageous prices for internet access and minibar drinks, shooting competitors at his own Olympic games, or engaging in a whacky back-and-forth with his nuclear scientist about the shape of a missile and quoting cartoons as a source of information that the film really hits the mark. But at the end of the day, The Dictator does stay mostly focused, not slowing down too much once the action shifts to New York, taking care to build at least a semblance of a heart into a comically heartless man without losing sight of the fact that it is his over-the-top dictatorial ways that make the movie shine, no matter how far such things stray from today's cautious air of political correctness that's so gleefully chewed up and spit out in nearly every frame.
The Dictator Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Dictator's 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer isn't necessarily a dazzler, but it's proficient and stable from beginning to end. The digital photography never looks too flat, lifeless, or glossy, but it's not amongst the finest of its kind, either, failing to reach that current pinnacle where digital almost looks as good as film. Still, the image is crisp and very well defined throughout, right down to the textures of the obviously fake Aladeen beard. The digital shoot also captures the finest nuanced details of the ornate decorations around his Wadiya palace, the New York organic market, city exteriors, and other locations seen throughout the movie. Colors are rich and steady, vibrant and balanced. Bright greens; golds; and the red, white, and blue jump suit Aladeen wears when attempting to "blend in" all dazzle. The entire palette is even and colors are sharp and well defined in any light, whether bright exteriors, well-to-moderately lit interiors, and nighttime shots. Blacks are deep and pure, never going gray or, conversely, too dark and absorbing critical detailing. Skin tones are even, though sometimes pasty as they are occasionally prone to appear with digital photography. Light banding and a touch of shimming are also evident in a few spots. Altogether, however, this is a very good-looking image that serves the movie nicely.
The Dictator Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Dictator features a Comedy-basic DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless Blu-ray soundtrack. This one is rather forgettable but, at the same time, more than suffices for the movie's relatively simple sonic needs. Music plays as expected: there's natural front-end spacing, wonderful clarity, a good low end support element, and a hint of surround activity. There's little in terms of energized action elements, but the track delivers some fine nuanced effects with commendable precision. Chanting crowds protesting Aladeen outside the United Nations building nicely envelop the listener, making him or her feel part of the group. Light city ambience -- passing traffic and pedestrians on ground level, light breezes and singing birds up on top of the organic marketplace -- has been integrated into the track to help build an authentic sense of place. Perhaps the most prominent effect comes as fire rages and sweeps through the listening area for a brief time in chapter three. Otherwise, this one's rather simple. Dialogue is even and clear, flowing effortlessly from the center channel. This one isn't a system-seller or an eardrum-buster, but Paramount's track gets the job done with high marks all around.
The Dictator Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Dictator offers up a pittance of extra content. A more dignified assortment would have been nice. Off with someone's head!
The Dictator Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ultimately, The Dictator will probably go down as one of those love-it or hate-it Sacha Baron Cohen films. It's vulgar and at times distasteful, but it's also a brilliant send-up of third-world dictators and the world in which they live and the shape they give it. The character is an amalgamation of all the big ones and so nonsensical that the entire thing borders on the cartoonish, but therein lies the fun. When something is this far over the top, the unthinkable becomes hilarious and the unspeakable a fountain of humor. It all works very well, in spite of some lengthier segments that veer the movie far off its track. Fortunately, The Dictator understands what works and always finds its way back to its source. It's easily one of the funniest movies of the past few years, and now it's a pretty nice Blu-ray package. Though it skimps on extras -- there's nothing meaty here beyond a nice assortment of deleted scenes -- Paramount's Blu-ray does offer very good video and audio presentations. Recommended.
The Dictator: Other Editions
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The Dictator Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: The Dictator - August 21, 2012
Blu-ray.com and Paramount Home Entertainment are offering three members an opportunity to win a signed copy of The Dictator, autographed by His Most High Excellency himself, Sacha Baron Cohen. The riotous comedy is now available on Blu-ray.
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 21-28 - August 19, 2012
This week, Lionsgate is bringing The Hunger Games to Blu-ray. Like author Suzanne Collins' dystopian novel of the same name, the film aims to provide young adults with a fantasy far more unnerving than that of Twilight or Harry Potter; The Hunger Games takes place ...
• The Dictator Blu-ray - July 11, 2012
Next month, Paramount Home Media Distribution will bring The Dictator to Blu-ray. Borat creators Sasha Baron Cohen (Bruno) and Larry Charles (Religulous) have reunited for this satirical comedy, which focuses on Admiral General Aladeen (Cohen), the cheerfully ...
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