'The Dictator': What the Critics Are Saying
After months of public appearances in character, Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator has finally arrived in theaters. The film sees Baron Cohen’s fictional North African dictator, General Admiral Aladeen, wandering around New York after facing an assassination attempt at home. The film is projected to reach a five-day $23.5 million debut, but how did it fair with the critics?
Baron Cohen’s first outing since Bruno received a C CinemaScore and holds a 61% on Rotten Tomatoes, lower than Borat’s 91% and Bruno’s 67% score on the tomatometer.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy wrote though the film “will prove too extreme for a portion of the mainstream public, Baron Cohen's fans should generally welcome it to good box-office returns.” McCarthy also called the Dictator “more nuanced and intellectually satisfying than one expects.”
In his three-star review, Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert wrote with this film, Baron Cohen “establishes a claim to be the best comic filmmaker now working.” While Ebert expected the film to be Baron Cohen’smost offensive yet, he concluded “while you can't say it isn't offensive (especially in scenes involving a dead civil rights leader's severed head), it's somehow… nicer, maybe you could say.”
New York Times critic A.O. Scott described Baron Cohen as a performer with a seemingly infinite range of characters, each with the potential to be funny. “That potential is mostly squandered in ‘The Dictator,’ which gestures halfheartedly toward topicality and, with equal lack of conviction, toward pure, anarchic silliness,” Scott wrote. Scott thought the plot would have been acceptable had the film had better jokes. “There are a few good ones, but many more that feel half-baked and rehashed,” he wrote.
Los Angeles Times critic Betsy Sharkey wrote The Dictator “underscores both Baron Cohen's genius and his folly. She argued “when he is good, he is very, very good, and when he is bad he is horrid.” Though following the Arab Spring, the film should feel particularly relevant, Sharkey found “there is so much silliness it's hard to take anything here that seriously."