I loved this. Ok, so half the time my screeches of laughter were of the 'cor blimey, he really did just say that!!' variety, and yes, some of the jokes are certainly below the belt (or under the unshaven hippie armpit) - but surely by now we have come to expect no less of this cheeky Haberdashers' boy who's made it as a Hollywood star. True, the film doesn't reach the high comic peaks (or low comic troughs) of Borat (and there's only one fleeting full frontal nude shot of Baron Cohen rather than the customary whole scene), but it's far funnier than Brüno and a more well-constructed mainstream straight film than 2002's Ali G Indahouse. Plus, it's got Sir Ben Kingsley and Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions) as supporting actors. And its title pays homage to Chaplin's The Great Dictator. What's not to like?
Ok, so there's probably a fair amount not to like. The whole film is basically a big, silly, clever build up to one very obvious Western liberal punch line, and when it's delivered, you do get the sneaking feeling that you're either being lectured or being given some kind of justification for the absurdly un-PC foolery you've just witnessed. And yes, the dictator himself is a very obvious parody of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who at the time of filming wasn't yet dead, and there is something very muddy about the tastefulness of the whole endeavour. But therein lies the genius (probably). We're laughing at a parody of a hideous, cruel dictator; then we're laughing with him at his outrageous jokes; then we're laughing wryly at ourselves, up on our political and moral high horses laughing down on such a ridiculously unrealistic portrayal of a political figure in a distant land that, in any real world parallel, we would probably be supplying arms to in exchange for oil. You have got to laugh. Right? Plus, finally, the whole thing is accompanied by a truly excellent soundtrack by the eldest Baron Cohen brother, composer Erran (who also scored Borat), which you would have to be asleep not to enjoy. It's available for download now and I'm getting it.
Now Baron Cohen is too famous to hoodwink the public with barely-disguised silly personas, it's interesting to think about what he might produce next. Perhaps a straight undercover documentary investigating human rights abuses in real distant lands, as an interesting new direction? Maybe he could go and look at how Israel's getting on with the West Bank, or nip over to Myanmar to see how its transition to democracy is going, or pop into China to ask whether it would consider letting out some political prisoners. Or do a Morgan-Spurlock-style exposé of something-or-other (as long as it contained no real risk to his own actual life and limb). Or maybe he'll just don a fat suit and go back to taunting Americans. I wait with anticipation to laugh this much in a cinema once more.