Sacha Baron Cohen's 'The Dictator' Screens in Las Vegas - What are Critics Saying?

 
“Hello, and death to the West!”
 
That’s how Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as General Aladeen, greeted those in attendance for Paramount Pictures’ presentation of The Dictator at CinemaCon in Las Vegas Monday night. By all accounts, it was a wild scene, with Cohen pulling very few punches as he joked about torturing Roger Ebert to get a favorable review, and taking swings at Disney for its recent, high-profile bomb on John Carter, according to EW.com.
 
Speaking to theater owners in town for the convention, Cohen pleaded, “I hope you all show my film on all of your screens, but of course it is completely up to you. I would never threaten you.”
 
He then added, “By the way, everyone in the first three rows … Please check under your seats. Is that chewing gum under there? It’s certainly not plastic explosives!” 
 
The tongue-in-cheek appearance – similar to the one he made on the red carpet outside the Academy Awards in February – was well-received by the studio and theater executives. So, it turns out, was Cohen’s latest movie. 
 
In a somewhat surprising move, Paramount screened The Dictator for a late-night crowd in Vegas on Monday, and early, short reviews that hit the Web were largely positive.
 
“I drove four-and-a-half hours today to see a 75 minute movie. I regret nothing,” writes Drew McWeeny of HitFix. “The film moves fast, with so many jokes per minute that even if only half of them work for you, that's a pretty tremendous number of laughs. … This time, there's no pretense towards reality.  It is absurd from start to finish, and Cohen doesn't hold anything back.”
 
The candid Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere backed that up, writing, “The film works -- it's frequently funny and fast-moving and inventive. And it's not just another Borat-Bruno here-we-go-again yaddah yaddah, which I had feared it might be. … The Dictator is, to repeat, a much more satisfying package than anyone anticipated, or so I suspect.”
 
And in a Tweet, Anne Thompson of IndieWire sums up, “The Dictator plays well, funny well-written w/ edge. Colbert meets The Mouse That Roared. Better than Bruno.”
 
So early word is out on The Dictator, and things appear to be good. Cohen could make the late-night TV circuit in character as we get closer to the comedy’s May 16 release date. Or he might drop off the face of the Earth. No matter what, we know it will be unpredictable … and probably very amusing. 
 
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