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The Dictator and Dark Shadows
by Karma Waltonen

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While watching Sasha Baron Cohen's THE DICTATOR, I kept thinking about Charlie Chaplin's THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940). Both movies feature anti-Semitic leaders and the troubles that doppelgangers can cause.

Both are also products of their own time. While Chaplin was reacting to Hitler, Cohen's creature is a compilation of Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. In fact, Cohen was reluctant to produce the film while Gaddafi was alive, fearing that the vindictive, insane leader would attack the cast and crew.

Cohen is famous for his incredible improvisation work—he inhabited Ali G,
with Sir Ben Kingsley

with Sir Ben Kingsley
Bruno, and Borat—staying in character through potentially dangerous situations and even interviews. Still, THE DICTATOR, while scripted, has exactly the types of comedy Cohen is most known for. Overall, the movie is strong. In fact, I would rank it second to BORAT.

My only regret is that I somehow managed to see way too many previews. Thus, I knew some of the funniest scenes in their entirety. However, there were some particularly gross/shocking scenes that were new to me. And there was one glorious scene in which the Dictator explains what America could do differently if it were
with Sir Ben Kingsley
a dictatorship.

My weekend search for comedy also led me to see DARK SHADOWS. I'm going to be honest—I cannot and thus will not compare this remake to the original. All I know about the supernatural soap opera is that my mom and aunt used to watch it religiously, that my aunt tried to watch it again recently but found the pace way too slow, and that THIS AMERICAN LIFE has a segment on a DARK SHADOWS convention: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/74/conventions

Thus, I have no particular attachment to the story or the characters—I just have the usual
it's hard to get comfortable

it's hard to get comfortable
admiration for Tim Burton and the amazing cast, led by Johnny Depp.

The beginning of the film is stronger than the end—we get to experience the costumes and music of the 1970s and we get to see Johnny Depp's 18th century character experience the 20th century, with all the inherent terror and confusion it would inspire. The end of the film loses coherence, though. I'm not sure if that's because they were trying to pack an entire years-long soap opera into two hours or if it's something else. Things just felt . . . truncated.

It's still worth a watch, especially if you're a Burton/Depp fan.

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May 27, 2012 4:24 PM
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I haven't seen THE DICTATOR yet ( and don't know if I will - BRUNO was terrible disappointment), but I agree with you about DARK SHADOWS. The end was a bit of a let down, but the rest of the movie was a lark! Depp was incredible; wildly funny in his perplexed dignity, he was a delight to watch. He outshown the rest of the cast to my mind, even Michelle Pfeiffer, whom I like a lot, was not as electric as Depp. It's definitely worth a watch, particularly for Depp and the artistic values. Good column!

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Comedies with Dr. Karma
Every other Wednesday

Dr. Karma discusses all things comic, from the classics to what may become classics. Laugh with, but not at, her, please.

Other Columns
Other columns by Karma Waltonen:

Goodbye -- Dr. Karma

Pirates and Whedon Movies: In Theatres Now!

A Touch of Cult

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All Columns

Karma Waltonen
Dr. Karma is a silly, nerdy know-it-all, but in a good way. She brings all her overeducation to discuss that which truly matters: comedy. As some famous guy once said: “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ‘tis that I may not weep.” Or something like that.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Karma Waltonen by clicking here.

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