I came upon a fork in the road and chose to take the road less traveled.
Unfortunately, neither "Dark Shadows" or "The Dictator" had any patrons in the theatre when I arrived so I opted for the original Sasha Baron Cohen mockery of a ruthless dictator over Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's vampire soap opera redo.
By the time the movie started, I wasn't alone. And we laughed together and woke up in the morning with feelings of regret.
Cohen's previous films, "Borat," a mockumentary about a displaced foreign TV correspondent attempting to discover America on film, and "Bruno," the much more offensive - if that's possible - take on a gay fashion designer, not only pushed the envelope, they pushed it over the edge.
This time around, Cohen, who also has writing and producing credits, stars as Admiral General Aladeen, a dictator who rules the Republic of Wadiya in North Africa. In a speech from the balcony of his palace, addressing his people and the world, the dictator unsuccessfully plays off his country's nuclear plans as attempting to create clean energy, rather than trying to create weaponry. When he can't keep a straight face, and bursts out laughing, the United Nations demands an audience in New York or military action will be initiated.
A member of his American security detail (John C. Reilly) - who believes anyone not from America is an A-rab - is part of a plot to remove Aladeen from leadership and open oil lines and democracy in Wadiya. After a quick removal of his beard, in attempt to kill him, Aladeen escapes, beardless, and is loose in New York City. His double (also played by Cohen), a clueless herdsman who looks just like Aladeen, delivers a speech to the cheers of the U.N. and the rest of the world, including the Wadiyans who celebrate in the streets.
Aladeen does not understand; he thought his people enjoyed living under his ruthless dictatorship. Stunned and heartbroken, he becomes determined to regain his position of power and put an end to the idea of freedom and democracy in his precious homeland.
He finds himself aided by an activist, Zoey (Anna Farris), who rocks a manly haircut, hairy pits and owns an independent organic garden and grocery store in Brooklyn. Confused and unsure she's not really a guy, Aladeen charms his way into her store as an employee - although he despises the idea of working for a woman - in a plot to infiltrate the constitution-signing and stop the plan for peace.
He and a former Wadiyan scientist, Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) - whom he thought he executed - work together to end this crazy idea of freedom with the design of creating the "Beard of Doom" nuclear weapon.
Along the way, Aladeen and Nadal terrify a tourist couple on a helicopter ride above New York, the dictator helps deliver a baby in the store while sharing a moment with Zoey, and well ... you're just going to have to see it if you're brave enough.
The laughs are there. Unfortunately, some of them will leave you feeling bad you chuckled. And, as you expect with Cohen, there are plenty of shock moments guaranteed to make you say, "I can't believe that just happened."
Enter at your own risk!
On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, "The Dictator" scores a 2 1/2. Choose your munching moments carefully, or you might find yourself choking on your freshly buttered, golden chunks of popped corn. Keep a drink close by, but don't laugh or gag with a mouthful. While pop spraying from your nostrils might fit in well with the film's humor, the person sitting in front of you might not find the shower quite as entertaining. MPAA Rating R (for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images) Running Time: 1 hour 23 minutes. This film was reviewed at the Southpark 7 in Spencer.