Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Dictator' Almost Rules

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Dictator' Almost Rules

Article excerpt

'THE DICTATOR'

Critic's Call: * *1/2

Sacha Baron Cohen has made a career of culture clashes -- from Kazakhstani reporter Borat to Austrian fashionista Bruno -- and of his fanatical commitment to fictional characters mucking about in the real world.

This time he is Admiral General Aladeen, the ruthless ruler for life of Wadiya, an oil-rich African nation. He inherited that job at age 6, when his father was killed in a freak hunting accident. Aladeen boasts 118 honorary doctorates and a diploma in spray tanning from Qatar Community College. He is also a sexual dynamo and a world-class champion runner -- winner of his own Olympics, in which he traditionally fires the starting gun and keeps it, while running, to shoot competitors during the race.

At the moment, Aladeen has been summoned by the United Nations to address concerns that Wadiya is just months away from developing nuclear weapons. He agrees to go but, like all top-tier tyrants, needs a new body double to stand in for him and be assassinated in New York. His treacherous and corrupt henchman Tamir (Ben Kingsley) locates a dimwit dead ringer for Aladeen to pass off at the big UN gig.

Once in New York and shorn of shrubbery, he looks like a mutant cross between Abby Hoffman and Frank Zappa. There, he runs into his ex-chief nuclear scientist (Jason Mantzoukas), whom he thought he had executed, among the Wadiyan refugees at Manhattan's popular Death to Aladeen restaurant. Later, he is rescued from an anti- Aladeen rally by spunky Zoey (Anna Faris), vegan-feminist manager of the Free Earth Collective. He falls in love with her, adopts the clever pseudonym "Allison Burgers" and joins her staff -- all leading up to an inevitable absurd climax at the UN.

How broad is this farce? Extreeemely broad -- even broader than "Borat" (2006) or "Bruno" (2009). Mr. Cohen's Aladeen is a hybrid of Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi and Soupy Sales on methamphetamines. …

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