2 thoughts on 5 films: The critics are trying to get along with THE DICTATOR

Going to the movies should never, ever be stressful (unless, of course, you’re planning on seeing the latest Lars von Trier flick). You want to see something new and relevant so that you can talk it up with your know-it-all friends. But you don’t want to sit through the one film that everyone thought would be great, but…isn’t. So here is our formula, simplifying the should-you-see-it conundrum: 5 new releases x 2 critical samplings = what you should go see Simple enough, right? This week we have a deadpan despot, a dreamy-eyed British lady-lover, aliens in the ocean, pregnant ladies and the men who love ‘em.


Synopsis: Sacha Baron Cohen, now a ‘serious’ actor, shows up in this less faux-documentary, more straight-up Hollywood satire of a middle-eastern dictator adrift in liberal NYC.

Most typical critique: Claudia Puig, USA Today:

While tastelessness is rampant and the humor uneven, THE DICTATOR also has its moments of slyly clever satire.

The quote not to miss: Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com:

I hope [Cohen] isn’t entertaining any ambitions to become beloved and popular. I expected this to be the most offensive of the three titles, and while you can’t say it isn’t offensive (especially in scenes involving a dead civil rights leader’s severed head), it’s somehow… nicer, maybe you could say.

Should you go see it?

Up to you! By this point you probably know if Sacha Baron Cohen is your type of wildly offensive comic or not, and his third vehicle seems to hit some communally agreed-upon high—and egregiously low—notes.


Synopsis: Hugh Dancy as a well-meaning, forward-thinking physician who accidentally invents the first vibrator, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the feisty doctor’s daughter who sort-of loves him. Plus the ever-playful Rupert Everett.

Most typical critique: David Germain, Associated Press:

HYSTERIA feels as though it’s going through the motions as the filmmakers strain to deliver one of those blithe little costume charmers that can rouse art-house audiences to ecstasy.

The quote not to miss: Sara Maria Vizcarrondo, Boxoffice Magazine:

The film is a fairly plastic British period piece with all the intimacy of a Hitachi Wand.

Should you go see it?

Not necessarily. HYSTERIA has fun showing period London’s brittle conventions as they crack and fall apart, but this romp is by no means hysterical.


Synopsis: An exceptionally wooden Taylor Kitsch joins forces with Liam Neeson (and… Rihanna?) to—get this—save the world from aliens. Oh, and this is at sea. And it’s somehow based on that board game.

Most typical critique: Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York:

For the sake of passionate defenders of 1985’s CLUE (you can do worse), let’s not come down too hard on this action film’s origins as a board game. Plastic parts are the least of its worries….

The quote not to miss: Scott Tobias, AV Club:

The Marines got that commercial where the recruit slays the fire-spewing lava monster, and now the Navy has its two-hour propaganda film about the glories of fighting alien invaders positioned in neat little quadrants at sea. Just try to forget it’s a toy.

Should you go see it?

It’s summer, so we won’t blame you if you do. As far as big-budget rock-em sock-em alien invader movies go, this movie won’t overly disappoint, but you could also just go see THE AVENGERS again.


Synopsis: Cameron Diaz, JLo and Elizabeth Banks round out a cast of pregnant females rife with hopes, hormones and hysterics in this wispy send-up of the authoritative guidebook for expectant parents.

Most typical critique: Peter Howell, Toronto Star:

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING is pretty much what you’d expect. It plays to its target audience with a vengeance, and that audience would be people expecting kids or who can remember their own pre-parenthood jitters.

The quote not to miss: Eric Hynes, Village Voice:

Even though it doesn’t have a story, characters, or setting, Heidi Murkoff’s mega-bestselling, 28-year-old pregnancy manual, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, actually makes perfect sense as a vehicle for a contemporary Hollywood ensemble comedy. For an industry banked on bathroom humor, what could be more suitable than this vomit-, piss-, fart-, foreskin-, and flabby-vagina-filled tome?

Should you go see it?

Meh. True to form, we bet the trailer gave you everything you needed to see in this one.


Synopsis: Morgan Spurlock’s latest doc takes on manscaping as well as the question “What does it means to be a man?” Arrested Development’s Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, who also executive produce, try their best to answer.

Most typical critique: Gerard Raymond, Slant Magazine:

One is never sure if Spurlock just wants to make fun of his subject matter or whether he has any serious intention of examining the phenomenon of manscaping. The sociological commentary and historical perspectives are superficial at best and the targets often too easy.

The quote not to miss: Marsha McCreadie, Film Journal International:

It’s a cute enough, au courant idea, though the Spurlock matrix of interviews plus graphics is wearing a little thin, the probes less probing.

Should you go see it?

Skip it. This seems about as skin-deep as Chris Rock’s hair documentary misfire GOOD HAIR. And anyway, you know what it means to be a man, don’t you?