|Anna Farris and Sacha Baron Cohen in The Dictator|
Sacha Baron Cohen moving from prank interviews to fully-scripted and staged comedy was inevitable. I guess he'd done it before, but everyone I know who saw it, advised me to avoid the Ali G movie. Even if there's still a chance that he can invent a character no one will recognize for candid stunts again, his new character, Aladeen is no ideal candidate for such a venture. There are very few people you could convince to participate in a documentary about a non-existent dictator. So in The Dictator, Cohen and regular collaborative director Larry Charles made a pretty funny traditional comedy even though it is disappointingly formulaic.
There are plenty of laughs through Cohen's usual fare of nastiness and biting satirical criticism of the world today. With this movie, there are some supporting actors who add quite a bit of extra fun, particularly with Anna Farris as a feminist running a globally conscious health food store where Aladeen winds up working.
Thematically, you get the same style of humor you have come to expect from him. However, with a controlled environment, there is no gratification to be had from his amazing talent for staying in character in the midst of tense embarrassing situations like the ones he created in Borat, Brüno, and Da Ali G Show.
Listen to Sacha Baron Cohen talk about his career with Terry Gross.