Sacha Baron Cohen's latest unabashed leap into the world of political incorrectness, "The Dictator," is so off-color, vulgar and frat-boy funny that there is a tendency to want to apologize for laughing.
Don't hang your head in shame. The film works both as a sneaky political satire and as a raunchy over-the-top comedy because the script has a central focus.
Cohen can knock a project off its comedy wheels with his improvisation, which often can lack any punch. There are obvious moments where he strays from the script, but there is enough coarse and crude comedy in the writing to hold the lampoonish line. There's a funny Cohen ("Borat"), and there's an annoyingly unfunny Cohen ("Brüno"). It's the smart and funny Cohen who stars and co-wrote "The Dictator."
Cohen plays Gen. Aladeen, dictator of a mythical Middle Eastern country. He's so rich he can purchase Hollywood's biggest names -- such as Megan Fox and former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- for a night of passion. His rule for ruling is simple: Kill anyone he doesn't like. And, he doesn't like too many of his subjects.
Because of some political maneuvering before speaking to the United Nations, Aladeen finds himself wandering the streets of New York. He is saved by a political activist (Anna Faris), who gives him a job.
Nothing is off limits in "The Dictator." Aladeen and the former head of his nuclear bomb team have a conversation in a helicopter where fellow passengers hear only enough English words to assume the men are plotting another 9/11-style attack.
Making jokes about such a deeply emotional moment is a gamble. It only works because Cohen takes the political incorrectness to an astronomical level. What he's saying will still make you cringe -- such as asking a pregnant woman if she will have "a boy or abortion" -- but it is so absurd that it generates laughs from the sheer lunacy of the dialogue.
Director Larry Charles -- who directed both "Borat" and "Brüno" -- set a fast tempo for the film, another plus when it comes to such outlandish humor. The next joke comes along before there is time to get upset about the previous comments. The tempo is fast enough that the movie clocks in under 90 minutes. But with this brand of humor, less is definitely more.
"The Dictator" is gross, shocking and the poster movie for political incorrectness. Because the funny Cohen showed up, all of those elements create laughs. They might be nervous laughs, but they are laughs none the less.
"The Dictator," rated R for crude and sexual content, nudity, language, violent images. Stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly. Directed by Larry Charles. Running time: 84 minutes. Grade: B Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559)441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org
or @RickBentley1. Read his blog atfresnobeehive.com.