By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Sasha Baron Cohen’s smugly unfunny humor

I detested “Borat,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s best-known movie, for making vicious fun of good people who’d done nothing more than try to be polite. So I can only imagine how bad “The Dictator” must be if, as A.O. Scott writes in the New York Times, it doesn’t even reach that low standard.

I absolutely love this line from Scott:

Unlike his precursors Brüno, Borat and Ali G, Admiral General Aladeen is not meant to fool anyone into thinking that he is real, so viewers are denied the full measure of smugness that is Mr. Baron Cohen’s special gift to bestow.

When I was in Almaty, Kazakhstan, three years ago, our cab driver couldn’t wait to tell us how much he liked “Borat.” “But it’s not really Kazakhstan!” he quickly added.

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  1. Lou Gawab

    I liked and enjoyed the silliness** of Borat. (Chicken in the subway, Pamela Anderson bit, etc.)

    I thought his next movie “Bruno” was “over the top” with so much sexual content, I was uncomfortable. (“Over the top” seems to be the feeling of most everyone.) (and I’m no prude!)

    I wanted to like this…but the beard is bad, the idea of shooting people isn’t funny to me.

    (**Hey, I *liked* the Three Stooges movie!)

    I would’ve thought after Bruno, he would have learned where the boundaries of his comedy were. I think he is a funny guy, who is quickly making himself irrelevant.)

  2. Michael Pahre

    How did your Kazakh taxi driver see it? The movie Borat was banned throughout Kazakhstan. The authorities didn’t understand that it was actually making fun of Americans, not them.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Michael: Good question. I didn’t know it had been banned. A possible explanation is that the government seemed to be wearing its authoritarianism pretty lightly in 2009, when I was there. I doubt it was very hard to find a way to see it. Or maybe he hadn’t really seen it. I haven’t been back, but based in news coverage it sounds as though the atmosphere is more repressive now.

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