When Sacha Baron Cohen first emerged on the scene mocking journalists on Da Ali G Show in the early 00′s, I fell in love with his schtick. Finally someone was calling BS on the ridiculous nature of journalists’ interviews and doing it in the funniest way possible. By posing as the British Ali G, the Kazakhstani Borat and the gay Austrian Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen successfully and hilariously pointed out all the flaws inherant to so many of interviews we witness on TV.
Every time an episode of the show ended, I wanted more Ali G, more Borat and more Bruno. So I understand why someone thought making the mockumentaries Borat and Bruno sounded like a good idea. If the people want more, let’s give them more. But as we quickly learned after seeing those films in theaters, more is not always better. Especially when it comes to featuring one absolutely ridiculous caricature of a character for an extended length of time.
Therefore I walked into The Dictator screening last week with extremely low expectations. Not only was this movie following in the footsteps of Sacha Baron Cohen’s last two films by featuring an unaware and incredibly flawed protagonist, but the protagonist already felt stale to me. The PR campaign for this movie kicked off months ago and I felt like by the time I met General Aladeen in the movie I already knew him well.
So even though I laughed a few times during the film at the stupidest of jokes, I sat stone faced through the majority of it. All I kept thinking throughout the entire thing was “we get it, we get it, we get.” General Aladeen hates democracy, women and jews. How many jokes must we hear to understand that?
The answer? Enough to fill 83 minutes.
At the end of the film, General Aladeen makes a stirring speech pointing out the similarities between America’s democracy and radical dictatorship. The film built up to this point and while it makes compelte sense and sums up the entire concept of the film, it takes 80 minutes to get there. Before we could get to the actual thesis of the movie, we heard endless pubic hair jokes, gay jokes, jew jokes, women jokes and even rape jokes. Yes, an ample amount of rape jokes. Because rape gets funnier and funnier every time General Aladeen mentions it.
So I just couldn’t muster up excitement for the smart point that the movie made. Which is disappointing, because it’s extremely relevant and could have lead to valuable discussion about the way our country views itself in the larger global context.
But Sacha Baron Cohen opted for 600 pube jokes instead. Nothing dilutes a political statement quite like humor that caters toward college freshman. And that’s why The Dictator killed his career. He made the full transition from an incredibly smart comedian to a stupid actor going for the easy joke. Da Ali G show took brains to watch. The Dictator simply takes balls. Literal balls, the kind that attach to a penis.
While I don’t think it’s too late for Sacha Baron Cohen to recapture the magic that made him famous in the first place, he would have to drastically rethink his career choices. His satirical humor’s not built for the big screen, but rather for small segments where he can make intelligent points that leave us thinking — rather than making 83 minute points that leave us feeling like we just got trapped in a men’s locker room.
Here’s to hoping he can make a career comeback. It’s definitely wanted, but pretty unlikely.