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By Gaetana Caldwell-Smith

THE DICTATOR, directed by Larry Charles, starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, and Ben Kingsley.

“The Dictator” is outrageously over the top hilarious; Sacha Baron Cohen’s character, the heavily bearded Admiral General Aladeen, in a militaristic, be-ribboned white suit and cap, is the dictator of the fictional oil-rich country of Wadiya.  In a speech about democracy vs a dictatorship, he riles up the crowd by asking if they want to live in a country that spies on its citizens, arrests them without charge, and imprisons them indefinitely; and also assassinates its citizens who happen to be friends or relatives of suspected terrorists who are in another country at the time.  Hopefully, the audience gets that Aladeen is talking about America, espousing truths that no mainstream media would dare touch.  The self-important major TV newscasts anchors reporting on Aladeen’s every move are portrayed as a bunch of well-groomed, clueless nitwits.
Aladeen’s handlers hire an imposter because Aladeen has decapitated so many detractors that Wadiyans want him killed.  On the lam, Aladeen ends up in New York dressed in the rags of a homeless person; he runs into fellow countryman Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas), whom he thought he’d ordered be-headed.  Nadal now owns a restaurant called Death to Aladeen. He then gets involved with an organic foods co-op run by Zoey (a gamin Anna Faris), who outfits the 6 ft 4 Cohen in a Take Back the Night T-shirt and baggy, baby-blue, thigh-length shorts.  Without even trying, Zoey innocently and naively effects a major change in him.
The film touches on the US dealing with the Wadiyan nuclear enrichment program; the push for an Arab Spring democracy in dictatorships.  Cohen leaves no sensitive issue unscathed such as female infanticide, women’s rights (women, generally), police brutality, racism- Blacks, Jews, Asians, and more.  Still you will not hear an anti-Muslim peep.  There’s some bathroom and high-school jock humor throughout, but the concept is like a Michael Moore documentary only totally fictionalized with bizarre characters, dialogue and scenes.  Ben Kingsley plays Tamir, Aladeen’s right hand man who plots to overthrow him.  He is a dead-ringer for Hamid Karzai, complete with hat and cape, and the only character who plays it absolutely straight.  The audience in the theatre was mostly women and we all laughed out loud throughout.