By now, viewers who’ve been following Sacha Baron Cohen’s career over the past decade probably have a feel for his newest, The Dictator, sight unseen. Admiral General Aladeen — perhaps you’ve seen him dumping “ashes” on Ryan Seacrest, or holding the mother of Extra movie-doll Ben Lyons hostage? — as a child, with fulsome pubic hair and a glorious beard. The autocrat Olympics he stages, in which the finish line runs toward him. The first of many celebrity cameos: Megan Fox in the palace of the Mad Dog of Wadiya, hastily putting her clothes back on. (“Katy Perry said she got a diamond Rolex,” Fox says, rummaging through her blood-money sack.)
Fox’s presence is a clue that at least one thing about The Dictator is different. Baron Cohen’s newest is also his first entirely fictional film since the 2002 false start Ali G Indahouse — the one that begins with Baron Cohen’s Ali G break-dancing his way out of a hail of bullets and sort of deteriorates from there. The Dictator is not quite in that zone of B-movie unease, but it’s not Baron Cohen’s best effort, either. It’s funny, but cheap and thin and ultimately not that different than any number of other movies in which Anna Faris plays a slightly dim ingenue, albeit with way more jokes about rape and torture and 9/11. It should do fine, though probably not any better than fine.