A sense of humor is like a fingerprint; no two are alike. What one person finds hilarious another doesn’t, and everyone has their own catalog of things that make them falls into hysterics. Sacha Baron Cohen‘s latest vehicle, The Dictator, tries to cover every single kind of humor imaginable. Do you like super offensive, evil humor? It’s got that. Potty humor? That’s there too. Social satire? Sure, why not. This wild unevenness is the film’s distinguishing factor and it leads to moments of genius, outbursts of offensive hilarity, and others of awkward, silent stupidity.

Structured around a boring, run-of-the-mill mistaken identity narrative, the main thing that keeps The Dictator from dying is an incredible level of unpredictability. At any moment, seemingly anything can happen in the name of a joke. This begets huge hits and big misses. Once again directed by Borat and Bruno helmer Larry Charles, The Dictator entertains but is deeply flawed and anything but subtle.

Cohen, who also produced and co-wrote, stars at General Aladeen, the dictator of a fictional north African country called Wadiya. He’s just about as evil as someone can be. He’s also dumb as rocks and possesed of a soft side, too. Yes, just like the movie, General Aladeen can’t figure himself out.

The main drive of the film centers on a political plot to oust the General while he is on a trip to New York City. The ideal outcome is that his dictatorship will fall and Wadiya can open its borders to oil companies. Of course, the plan goes awry. Aladeen meets a NY local named Zoe (Anna Faris) and from there, things happen pretty much exactly as you’d imagine.

The humor, however, is not like you’d imagine. While The Dictator does feature all kinds of humor, you never know what’s coming next and it’s never politically correct. That’s especially in the case of its bread and butter, finding humor in things such as murder, decapitation, torture and 9/11. Personally, I can find humor in terrible, terrible things – all those included – so I laughed a lot. But my fingerprint is certainly a unique one.

Those jokes are then juxtaposed with people defecating in the streets, name calling and other rudimentary attempts at humor that one would think Charles and Cohen were well beyond by now. Of course, most of these fall flat on their face.

When the movie is funny though, it’s really funny, and a lot of that is also due to a bevy of hilarious cameos and the soundtrack, which is a clever, ongoing joke that I wouldn’t want to ruin.

Sacha Baron Cohen hasn’t raised the bar with The Dictator, but he hasn’t really set himself back either. He’s made a flawed, wildy inconsistent film that incredibly funny at times, but even dumber at others.

/Film rating: 5.5 out of 10

The Dictator opens May 16.

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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