General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), the dictator of a North African country, Wadiya, arrives in New York City to give a speech at the UN, but gets kidnapped by a security agent (John C. Reilly), and up sans his beard and uniform while his body double replaces him. He assumes that a homeless man is the average American consumer, so he wears his ragged clothes and hits the streets of New York. Thus begins an outrageously funny comedy of errors. He soon meets and befriends a kind, vegan woman (Anna Faris) who hooks him up with a job at a grocery store. Ben Kingsley plays Aladeen's deceitful brother, and Megan Fox shows up, well, as Megan Fox.
To describe any of the jokes or sight gags would spoil the many surprises in store for you throughout the film and would be unfair because they're much funnier when delivered by Sacha Baron Cohen. He has impeccable comedic timing which he also displayed in Borat and Bruno, so if you enjoyed him in those two films, chances are you'd like him in The Dictator. Here the character he plays, despite being a dictator, has an unexpectedly sweet and intelligent side that occasionally rises to the surface and almost makes him likable---the intelligent side arises during a provocative speech toward the end of the film.
A comedy doesn't necessarily need to have a likable or believable character in order to be funny or to become a classic for that matter--just look at the highly irreverent classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail for instance. You can be rest assured, though, that The Dictator offers lots of crude, rude and lewd humor that's consistently shameless and equally offensive toward everyone, young and old. Much of what happens to Aladeen is quite outrageous and silly, but nonetheless you'll still find yourself laughing your head off and just having a great time in the name of irreverent humor. What more could you ask for?
Elena (Nadezhda Markina) lives with her affluent husband, Vlamidir (Andrew Smirnov) in a peaceful home. She has an unemployed son, Sergey (Alexey Rozin), from a previous marriage, and Vladimir has a daughter, Katerina (Yelena Lyadova), from his previous marriage. Both children leech onto their parents' income to put bread on the table. Sergey desperately needs money to pay for college for his teenage son, Sasha (Igor Ogurtsov), or else he'll have no choice but to go into the army. Vladimir refuses to pay for Sasha's education, though, stating firmly that Sergey needs to find a way to pay for it himself.
Elena can be viewed as a heart-wrenching drama as well as a very timely critique of modern society and, particularly, socialism. Vladimir is a capitalist. He earned his money by working hard. his daughter and stepson, like socialists, expect Vladimir to share his wealth with them without working hard. Elena finds herself in a very difficult moral dilemma as she must decide whether or not to listen to her husband when he refuses to fork out any more money to his stepson. What she decides to do isn't nearly as interesting as how she decides to do it. Fortunately, Nadezhda Markina nails the titular performance with utter conviction that shows precisely how frail yet tough Elena is as a human being. You may not like or fully understand her, but she's not a stock character. The same can be said for Vladimir and the rest of the flawed characters in the very dysfunctional family. Director/co-writer Andrei Zvyagintsev together with co-writer Oleg Negin treat the audience with respect by including subtlety, nuance and symbolism. They show the daily life of Elena and Vladimir with attention to detail that only makes everything more true-to-life. Everything from the music by Phillip Glass to the lighting, set design and slow pace help to establish the somber mood---the Phillip Glass score is the same one found in Koyaanisqatsi which would have been a more appropriate title for this film because it translates as "Life out of balance."