“Rape Jokes Simply Aren’t Funny”: Six Critics’ Jabs at The Dictator

They wouldn't get away with this in the Republic of Wadiya, that’s for sure.

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Promotional poster for Sacha Baron Cohen's upcoming film, The Dictator.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest bad-taste jamboree, The Dictator, has finally hit screens, and critics and are indulging in their much cherished press freedom – something Admiral General Aladeen, Baron Cohen’s alter ego, would never stand for, in his bid to “ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.”

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Not all the reviews are bad — The Dictator gets a middling 66% score on Rotten Tomatoes — and some critics are hailing the film’s taboo-flirting and “outrageous laughs”. But as with any film in which the main character utters the line “ah America, the birthplace of AIDS” and giggles at the idea of “equal rights for women,” it certainly has its share of detractors. Poison pens aside, however, the overall response has been a resounding “meh”:

  • “An early stunt involving a Wii game based on the 1972 Munich Olympics falls flatter than a stale matzo, a running gag about Hollywood stars selling sexual favors quickly loses steam and it can be stipulated that rape jokes simply aren’t funny.” Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
  • “Potential is mostly squandered in “The Dictator,” which gestures halfheartedly toward topicality and, with equal lack of conviction, toward pure, anarchic silliness.” A.O. Scott, The New York Times
  • “The film features a distinct stink of self-indulgence, an Eau de “Love Guru” that suggests star Sacha Baron Cohen finds himself much funnier than audiences will … When all else fails, Cohen repeats a joke, which is unforgivable in a movie that’s 83 minutes long, counting the lengthy end credits. It should be lean and mean and righteously funny. Instead, it seems like Cohen couldn’t blow up a laugh with a nuclear warhead.” John Serba, M Live
  • “The question of whether the character, or the audience, is in fact the butt of the joke looms large over much of Cohen’s work – but this sly/insightful portrait is one that the comedian has already painted, and re-painted, and painted again. How many examples of the same idea can a comedian successfully convey on film? I, personally, would answer with: “Not many more.”” Kofi Outlaw, Screen Rant
  • “Just as Bruno felt a little hollower than Borat, The Dictator is worse than both of them, an uncomfortable mix of comic setpieces and a treacly plot about a dictator who just wants to be loved.” Katey Rich, Cinema Blend
  • “This is the first time Baron Cohen has felt schlocky and repetitive, in that disturbing, trying-too-hard Mike Myers way. Among Sacha Baron Cohen characters, this is definitely his Love Guru, or his Little Nicky. You can see him straining for laughs, rather than having them just naturally appear, and explode.” Will Leitch, Dead Spin

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