Update: Scroll down for the most subtle reference in The Dictator‘s marketing.
Way, way back in the early 2000s, when media prankster Sacha Baron Cohen first began his Ali G. routine, the idea of a comedic actor who went out into the real world as his characters was ingenious. It was like Method acting meets guerrilla theater meets Improv Everywhere (with a little Andy Kaufman thrown in for good measure).
But now we’re all old and grey, and Mr. Cohen’s popularity in America after Bruno and Borat means that no one will fall for his pranks anymore, mostly because he’s too recognizable. It would be like Ashton Kutcher (or Justin Bieber, or Nick Cannon) showing up to “punk” you. And despite the fact that British comedian’s new film, The Dictator, is entirely scripted and does not necessitate any sort of “man on the street” pranks, Mr. Cohen can not, will not, let his old habits die. Even when they really, really should.
Between the incident at the Oscars where Admiral General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen in a beard) spilled the ashes of Kim Jong Il on Ryan Seacrest, his recent cameo on Saturday Night Live, and his endorsement of Mitt Romney, the one-man hype machine is threatening to overshadow the actual film. (Consider the fact that Mr. Cohen found it necessary to apologize to Mr. Seacrest, out of character, for his stunt, which not only destroys the illusion that the Admiral is his own separate entity, but compared to Mr. Cohen’s previous ventures, shows a real lack of commitment to the character.)
Just to prove he’s going to push this envelope as far as it can go (or until he gets bored), Mr. Cohen showed up to the London premiere of his film as Admiral Aladeen yesterday, prompting zero people to ask “Who is that edgy, hilarious man behind the beard?”
Maybe we’re being too hard on Admiral Aladeen…he does know how to make an entrance. Perhaps he’ll have a career after The Dictator as a wrestler for the WWE. He already has the outfit for it.
Update: The New York Times’ City Room blog caught one (perhaps intentional) goof in the poster for The Dictator…1 World Trade Center doesn’t exist!