Trailer Truth: Do the Ads Help or Hurt 'The Dictator'?

Trailer Truth: Do the Ads Help or Hurt 'The Dictator'?

May 18, 2012

I never watch a trailer until after I’ve seen the movie, and I also attempt to avoid as much news as possible. Then I compare what I knew, to what you knew. Let’s find out if what we see in the trailer is what we get, and if there is any advantage to going in fresh. (There will be spoilers.)


What I Knew Before: Avoiding The Dictator proved very difficult. Actually, that's not entirely true. Avoiding Sacha Baron Cohen doing press for the film was the hard part. I caught his act on the Oscars pre-game show. There, he poured some ashes on Ryan Seacrest. Sure, we've all wanted to see a disheveled Seacrest, but the comedy felt forced. I felt the same when Cohen showed up to the Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. Here's the thing though, Cohen's Brüno character felt forced when he was doing press, but I still loved watching him interact with idiotic Americans in the film. This General Aladeen character seems like a different beast. With Borat and Brüno his characters were sympathetic. Call me crazy, but it's tough to have sympathy for an evil dictator.

What I Knew After: Oh. Wow. This caught me off guard. I had no clue the film was going to be a normal old movie. What I mean by that is, General Aladeen never interacts with real people. This movie is filled with actors. I know. Shocking. It's also shocking to see how some of these actors are used. Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris are the supporting cast. Kingsley is never funny, but also isn't given any real weight or danger with his character. Faris is only the butt of Cohen's jokes. The movie plays out very closely to Eddie Murphy's Coming to America. Cohen even plays two characters. It's a dirty, and sometimes funny film, but I think this is one of those cases where I should have caught a trailer. That way I would have known it was a different style than what I have come to expect from Cohen.

What You Knew: Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton condemn someone ... ah, there he is. Cohen's character General Aladeen. On screen: FROM THE CREATOR OF BORAT. Jay-Z's "Beward of the Boys" kicks in, and we're taken around this evil dictator's land. There's female soldiers, including one who chooses to break bricks with her boobs (ladies, trust me, don't try this at home). The General gives us a WTF joke, and then we're on the streets of New York. The General proclaims America is the birthplace of AIDS, John C. Reily shows up, followed by Megan Fox who makes a Kardashian joke (which is like a train wreck making fun of a massacre). The kicker joke at the end of the trailer is watching the General in the Olympics as he makes sure he finishes first, no matter what the cost.

Trailer Truth: Here's what the trailer lets you know ... this is not like Cohen's other films. What is absolutely amazing is, 80 percent of this trailer is not in the film. Seriously. Let me give you the quick list. The boob-brick, WTF, AIDS, and Kardashian jokes aren't in the film's final product. I understand that sometimes marketing teams are just giving chunks of the movie, and from that they have to cut a trailer, but I've never seen it to this level. Heck, even Anna Faris doesn't make an appearance. The Faris omission is terrible because her character gives The Dictator a hook that can drive audiences to the theater. It's a comedy about a viciously evil dictator looking for love. That's funny (at times) in the film, and no where to be seen in the trailer. Look, I didn't love the film, but giving me a Kardashian joke from the mouth of Fox isn't going to sell tickets. Only showing an aggressive, in-power dictator is false advertising for what the film is trying to do.

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