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May 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator is arriving today (Wednesday),, instead of on Friday, in an apparent effort to avoid the fate of several fellow dictators of late. The relatively low-budget comedy is arriving at a time when the box office is deluged with $100-200-million blockbusters. Baron Cohen has been relentlessly promoting the movie for months — on the red carpet at the Oscars, on a host of TV talk shows, on an extravagant website, and even at Cannes, where the movie is not being screened but where an impressive ad for it covers the entrance to one of the classy hotels in Cannes during the current film festival. (Baron Cohen also rode a camel down the Cruoisette.) Reviews have been mixed but tip toward the favorable. Roger Ebert begins his review in the Chicago Sun-Times with these words: “The Dictator is funny, in addition to being obscene, disgusting, scatological, vulgar, crude and so on. … He establishes a claim to be the best comic filmmaker now working.” Likewise Michael Phillips dispenses with all the conflicting adjectives to describe the movie, settling on “maddeningly uneven.” However, he continues, “I stuck with it, though, because Cohen at his best is both brazen and sly.” And Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News suggests that audiences will share her conflicted feelings about the movie: “The easily offended will be appalled. The rarely offended may be appalled. But they’ll have to stop laughing long enough to realize it.” But A.O. Scott in the New York Times is not amused, insisting that most of the jokes “fall flat” and are “half-baked.” He concludes, “The main insult of The Dictator is how lazy it is.” But most reviewers — those praising the movie and those frowning on it — agree that a scene in which the dictator delivers a speech about the failings of fascism is worth the price of admission. Comments Peter Howell in the Toronto Star: “It’s one of the few times when a single scene redeems an entire movie.”