Commanding laughter: Cohen surprises audiences with a tight regime

THE Dictator is funny, in addition to being obscene, disgusting, scatological, vulgar, crude and so on. Having seen Sacha Baron Cohen promoting it on countless talk shows, I feared the movie would feel like deja vu. But no. He establishes a claim to be the best comic filmmaker now working. And in a speech about dictatorships, he practices merciless political satire.

Compared to the gleeful transgressions of Borat and Bruno, this is Cohen's most conventional film. It has a plot, it has a romance, it sticks to the story. Not that it's mainstream, although judging by the laughter of a preview audience, who knows where the stream is anymore? He also wisely gets in, gets his laughs and quits. The movie, like Bruno, falls short of 90 minutes, in an era when too many comedies run on relentlessly. 

Cohen plays General Admiral Aladeen of the North African nation of Wadiya, which seems superimposed upon parts of Egypt and Sudan and is spitting distance from Saudi Arabia. Here he occupies a huge palace, used for addressing admiring throngs of his worshippers and having sex not only with Megan Fox, but also, judging by his wall of post-coital Polaroids, Kim Kardashian, Arnold Schwarzengger and Oprah. Megan Fox has a great cameo, showing up for sex but drawing the line at an all-night cuddle. Full Review