A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Borat creator Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy The Dictator is extremely crass, politically incorrect, ridiculous, silly -- and quite funny. If you have a thick skin, you can't help but laugh at Cohen, who this time doesn't mine the humor found in punking unsuspecting people but instead gets guffaws by playing an extremely over-the-top dictator with campy relish. Expect tons of swearing (including "f--k" and derivations thereof, as well as many derogatory/racist terms) and sexual jokes/references, as well as topless women and a brief flash of full-frontal male nudity. As always, Baron Cohen doesn't shy away from stereotype-based humor that's likely to offend; instead, he embraces it.
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What's the story?
Admiral General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) is reviled the world over for his universal disdain for peace and justice and anything that remotely allows countries to get along. He's a war monger who disrespects his own people and is more interested in bedding the latest Hollywood starlet than trying to bring democracy to his country. And he's rich, thanks to his country's bounty of oil (which he prefers to keep for the country's use). But then, while on a trip to the United Nations, Aladeen's uncle (Ben Kingsley) gets him out of the way so that he can put a doppelganger in Aladeen's place, one who will sign over his dictatorship to make way for "democracy" -- in other words, the ability to sell oil to the highest bidders. Aladeen is shocked and, somehow, must rely on a peace-loving organic grocer named Zoey (Anna Faris) to regain power.
Is it any good?
The DICTATOR is a guilty pleasure, full of jokes that cue both laughter and a small helping of shame. Make no mistake about it, General Aladeen is a nasty piece of work: offensive, sexist, selfish, violent (though he apparently has never killed anyone, despite what he thinks), and arrogant. But he's also incompetent and silly and, in a not-so-surprising twist, capable of having a heart.
A brazen comedy, The Dictator works for the most part because it boldly goes where many filmmakers never go for fear of lousing it up and coming across as completely bonkers and insensitive. Just don't go looking for fully realized characters or a deeper analysis of the state of global affairs, because there aren't any here. It's just satire out to shock -- and plenty of laughs.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about deliberately offensive humor. Does Baron Cohen's brand of stereotype-driven, purposely offensive humor have a larger point, or is it just meant to shock viewers into laughter?
For all its jokes, does The Dictator have any underlying truths about politics and government?
How does The Dictator compare to Baron Cohen's other films? Which style do you prefer?
- In theaters: May 16, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: August 21, 2012
- Cast: Anna Faris, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen
- Director: Larry Charles
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images
For kids who love offbeat humor
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.