After a quick shout-out to the recently deceased Kim Jong Il, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest provocation launches headfirst into a brisk, hilarious jeremiad against Middle Eastern foreign policy, American chutzpah and organic grocery stores. The gangly British comedian responsible for rabble-rousing characters Ali G and Brüno plays General Admiral Haffaz Aladeen, ruthless ruler of the fictional North African nation of Wadiya and celebrity-bedding playa (his Polaroid wall of conquests includes LiLo, Oprah and the former Governator). But during a visit to the United Nations to defend his country’s nuclear program, the general’s second-in-command (Ben Kingsley) stages a coup, replacing the execution-happy dictator with an idiot impostor (also Baron Cohen).
Off into the five-borough wilds our protagonist goes, though this time, the shtick is much more clearly scripted. Yet even minus the element of Borat-style surprise, the laughs come at a furious clip: Gut-busting scatological sight gags are prevalent (much comic mileage is wrung from a severed head on a stick and an INT:VAGINA-cam), while a game Anna Faris, as Aladeen’s health-food-store-running love interest, parries every insult (“lesbian hobbit!”) with fearless flair. Sheer stupidity is the order of the day—as in a Weird Al–worthy sequence scored to a Middle Eastern gibberish version of “Everybody Hurts”—and viewer amusement is sure to vary. But even the stoniest face will crack when Aladeen sums up our cultural moment in a rousing, uproarious climactic speech worthy of both Chaplin and Team America.
Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich