Blu-ray Review: The Dictator

The Dictator Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Paramount | DIRECTOR: Larry Charles | CAST: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 8/21/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray $39.99
BONUSES: deleted scenes, interview
SPECS: R/NR | 83/93 min. | Comedy | widescreen 16×9 | 5.1 DTS-HD audio | English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The DictatorHaving been a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo) from his Ali G days, I was optimistically hopefully about The Dictator. From the trailer, the movie looked like it harkened back to his old politically uncorrect satire (away from his terrible Bruno), and I hoped the film would live up to the promise. It does — and it doesn’t.

In The Dictator, Baron Cohen skewers politicians, environmentalists, and others. He plays Aladeen, the oppressive leader of the fictional Republic of Wadiya. When he goes to New York to address a UN assembly about the concern that his country has nuclear weapons, he gets kidnapped as part of an assassination attempt. While he’s replaced by a lookalike goat herder, the real Aladeen joins with his former head nuclear scientist to regain his position. But political activist Anna Faris (Take Me Home Tonight) helps him see a new way.

The movie works best when it’s poking fun at politics, like Aladeen’s speech about why U.S. policitians should give dictatorship a try, but when it devolves into gross-out humor, like when he loses his cell phone while helping deliver Kathryn Hahn’s (Wanderlust) baby, the film loses steam.

Baron Cohen does a fine job as the dictator. It’s his Borat with more ego. Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island) is wasted as Aladeen’s uncle. Faris is appropriately perky and clueless, but why her character gives Aladeen the time of day after his repeated insults is a mystery.

Aladeen bribe

As an incentive to write a good review, Admiral General Aladeen sent us 2 million in Wadiyan dollars.

Megan Fox and Edward Norton appear in cameos, but both look uncomfortable and stiff on the screen, like they’re not really sure what they’re doing there.

The movie’s picture and audio is fine on the Banned* & Unrated Blu-ray, but this is not the kind of cinematographically gorgeous film that demands high-definition. Still the Blu-ray does have some extra bonus features over the DVD. (The box reveals that the * means the theatrical version of the film was banned in Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Terkmenistan.)

The Blu-ray’s list includes a brief and mildly amusing music video by Aladeen for “Your Money’s On the Dresser;” the full interview with Larry King that’s excerpted in the film (but it’s not that much longer); and a whopping 15 deleted scenes, which are more of the same schtick from the movie itself.

Both the Blu-ray and DVD have an unrated version of the usually R-rated film with 20 extra minutes, allowing for more nudity and gross-out humor.

Funnier than the disc’s extras were the marketing materials that came with the movie: 2 million in Republic of Wadiya dollars and this letter from Admiral General Aladeen himself. We warned our family and chose not to comply.

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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.