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The Dictator

 Category: Comedy Author: 1nglor1ous (2012-10-30) |  Views: 297

ABSTRACT: THE CURRENT CINEMA review of "The Dictator” and "The Intouchables.” Sacha Baron Cohen could be the Groucho Marx, Sid Caesar, and Lenny Bruce of his generation, if he would define and discipline his art as they did. First on television, and then in movies, Baron Cohen has inhabited various personae: Ali G (an imbecilic English would-be rapper), Borat (an imbecilic Kazakh journalist), and Brüno (an imbecilic Austrian fashionista). Stumbling around, apparently hapless, Baron Cohen conducted interviews with people who somehow never realized that they were talking to a calculating satirist. Promoting his new movie, "The Dictator,” he showed up on "Saturday Night Live” in the bedecked white uniform and thick black beard of his latest character, Admiral General Aladeen, the absolute leader of the North African state of Wadiya. When Baron Cohen finishes a film, he struts around in the guise of his peacocking dolts for months at a time, turning routine promotional events into provocation and performance art. He’s now too famous to interview people in character, so Aladeen is a straight performance. The movie pays homage to Muammar Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Idi Amin, and Dick Cheney. Aladeen insists on subservience from everyone, including his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley), who has Aladeen kidnapped and replaces him with a pliable double (also played by Baron Cohen). The dictator escapes, and, in America, beardless, he becomes friends with a vegan activist, Zoey (Anna Faris). Directed by Baron Cohen’s usual collaborator, Larry Charles, and written by Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer, the movie has the ramshackle loopiness of a Marx Brothers movie. But the film has a vicious edge that the Marx Brothers didn’t have, and it’s too low-minded to achieve their enchanting blend of anarchy and surrealism. At the moment, Baron Cohen is at risk of turning into an erudite Howard Stern. The French movie "The Intouchables,” which is based on a true story, feels like a square version of Julian Schnabel’s "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007). Philippe (François Cluzet), an aristocratic millionaire who lives in Paris, is left immobile after a paragliding accident. He hires as a caretaker a street thug born in Senegal, Driss (Omar Sy), who treats him with an abundance of pity, and the two men form a roguish friendship. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, "The Intouchables” is propelled by a particular French sentimentality about savagery and civilization that goes back to Rousseau. The plot, as a result, becomes disastrously condescending: the black man, who’s crude, sexy, and a great dancer, liberates the frozen white man. The film is an embarrassment.

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