On a trip to the United Nations, Aladeen is betrayed by his top general (Ben Kingsley) and dumped into the hands of an American torturer (John C. Reilly). Aladeen escapes, minus his trademark beard, and ends up befriended by a leftie activist, Zoey (Anna Faris), who runs an organic co-op grocery in Brooklyn. Aladeen plots with the now-exiled Natal to regain his command but is surprised to find himself falling for the idealistic, free-spirited and unshaven Zoey.
Director Larry Charles, who collaborated with Baron Cohen on "Borat" and "Bruno," gives his star free rein while constructing around him a surprisingly formulaic comic scenario think "Coming to America" with more offensive, but often gut-bustingly funny jokes. (You know what you're getting into in the opening frame, a title card that dedicates the film "in loving memory to Kim Jong-Il.")
The jokes themselves aren't particularly shocking, because "Borat" and "Bruno" have conditioned audiences to expect that sort of thing from Baron Cohen. What's shocking is the movie's finale, in which Baron Cohen as usual, fully committed to his character delivers a diatribe that's a satirical version of Charlie Chaplin's famous speech in "The Great Dictator." And what a speech: A pointed critique of American corporate greed, fear-mongering, racism, media monopolies and income inequality. The fact that a major American entertainment conglomerate (Viacom, parent company of Paramount) paid Baron Cohen to do it makes the irony that much richer.
Sacha Baron Cohen gets some harsh laughs, and a satirical dig at American politics, in this comedy.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Wednesday, May 16.
Rating • R for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images.
Running time • 84 minutes.