A Letter to Sacha Baron Cohen

19 May

Dear Sacha Baron Cohen,

When most of America first met you in the film Borat, your brand of comedy was new and novel.

The way you didn’t just play a character, you became that person — on screen and in every promotional appearance — was a brilliant display of performance art. You drew laughs from our discomfort, and I loved it.

Your next such movie, Brüno, was less successful largely because you basically did the same thing all over again, just with a gay German fashion reporter instead of a clueless Kazakh reporter. Yawn.

Now you’re starring in The Dictator, playing Admiral General Aladeen, a despot from the fictional North African country of Wadiya, who sees himself as a peer and friend of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, etc. The film is a satire of current world politics, a sendup of the Middle Eastern dictator culture, and again, you’ve been out promoting the film in character.

You’ve been at the Oscars, where you dumped Kim Jong-il’s “ashes” on Ryan Seacrest, and on Saturday Night Live with your Hugo director, Martin Scorsese. And you’ve made multiple other appearances as Aladeen, making many of the same jokes we saw in the film’s trailer and that we see in the film itself.

If your intention is to shock and offend us, then why ruin the gags for us before we’ve even paid for a ticket?

I’m sorry to be the one who has to tell you, but at this point, it’s not just “been there, done that” … it’s over.

Perhaps the only thing new this time around is that instead of Aladeen preying on innocent, unaware, real people, The Dictator is a scripted film with a cast of actors (among them, Ben Kingsley, Anna Faris, and John C. Reilly), and a genuine plot that doesn’t involve a cross-country journey.

Heck, there’s even an actual love story!

But the jokes have already been played out, so by the time people like me see the film, the jokes are old and we don’t laugh anymore. And when Aladeen is in a helicopter talking with a friend about blowing up the Statue of Liberty, it’s less funny because we know those aren’t unsuspecting fellow tourists, they’re actors playing scared.

(It’s also not funny anymore when you make such anti-Semitic jokes, even though you’re Jewish and have an Israeli mother.)

I know the film is trying to make light of politics and terrorism, and you’re trying to make these scary figures less so, but the comedy here just isn’t sharp enough. And your monologue at the end about imagining a culture where 1% of the country controls 99% of the economy and the media just falls flat because it sounds so clunky, obvious, cheesy, and forced.

The best thing about the film are the Wadiyan versions of such songs as “Everybody Hurts,” “9 to 5,” and “The Next Episode.”

You can do better than this, Sacha. Borat was a comedy classic that only became diluted the more you promoted it in character. Bruno was a disappointment, as everyone was hoping for Borat 2 and instead, basically got a rerun. With The Dictator, it’s clear you need to try something new.

Until you think of what that’ll be, your appearances in films like Hugo and Sweeney Todd — not to mention Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby — prove you’re a talented actor and comedian when playing characters not of your own creation. That’s why I have high hopes for how well you’ll do in Mercury, the big-screen biopic about Freddie Mercury and Queen, and in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Les Misérables.

But I’m telling people to pass on seeing The Dictator. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time a comedy made me laugh this little. I think people’s money would be better spent seeing other releases — or better yet, enjoying the beautiful weather.

Your alter ego would never approve of this, but I’m giving The Dictator a D.

Sorry, dude.

Your pal,
Martin

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2 Responses to “A Letter to Sacha Baron Cohen”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 2012 Was a Masterful Year for the Movies « Martin's Musings - December 21, 2012

    […] The Dictator I can’t remember the last time a comedy made me laugh this little. The less said about it, the […]

  2. Holiday Movies: The Good, the Bad, and the Burgandy | Martin's Musings - December 19, 2013

    […] to Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues with only muted excitement. And that was before Will Ferrell pulled a Sacha Baron Cohen, promoting the movie everywhere and anywhere he could, in character, thus wearing out his welcome […]

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