The Dictator, Battleship, Marley, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and three other films reviewed

Two high-profile comedies face off this week: The Dictator confronts What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Comedy is big this week, from Sacha Baron Cohen’s outrageous humor, the amusing mildness of some pregnant women and the droll sassiness of a Norwegian teenager. That’s the one to see.

Here’s the whole list:

The Dictator  3 stars

What to Expect … 2 ½

Turn Me On, Godammit  4

Sound of My Voice  3 ½  

Marley  --

Battleship   2

Nuit #1 ( part of  DiverCiné)   3 ½

The Samaritan  --

Virginia:   --

THE DICTATOR: Sacha Baron Cohen might want to be careful showing his new comedy in Arab countries. His antics as a Hussein- or Gadhafi-inspired despot, especially in the early scenes,  are so broad and offensive, they’re bound to rile more than a few over there, even though he’s cautious enough to stay away from any mention of Islam. Here, we can take it all. We’re used to his style from Borat and Bruno. He flips his snappy zingers and cheap shots, occasionally as witty satirical comments and more often in rude bad taste. There’s also a gross childbirth sequence in this one that blends in a tender handholding love scene photographed from, wait for it, inside the pregnant woman. No, you don’t want to imagine it.

The story is quite standard. It could have been done by Eddie Murphy, or even Bob Hope: The dictator of a fictional African country just east of Sudan comes to New York to speak at the United Nations. He has to explain his nuclear ambitions but he’s kidnapped (at the behest of a resentful aide played by Ben Kingsley) and replaced with a look-alike. He ends up on the street and eventually in a vegan food co-op run by Anna Faris, who he calls a “lesbian hobbit”. Much humor like that ensues, some funny, a lot of it flat and weak. Many jokes are dragged on far too long.  Faris, however, charms with an easy comic flair. I’ve heard about it but have never seen it from her before. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres)  3 out of 5  

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING: No childbirth advice, for one thing. Only the title comes from Heidi Murkoff’s multi-million best seller pregnancy guide. In fact, judging by the description of the latest edition, the screenwriters could well have found a few situations in there that are more interesting than what they’ve given us.

The film trips lightly through the most common pregnancy issues as experienced by five couples. Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison (from TV’s Glee) are celebrity dancers. Elizabeth Banks is a birthing expert who gets pregnant. Her father-in-law (Dennis Quaid) has a young blonde wife (former model Brooklyn Decker) who is expecting twins. Another woman (Jennifer Lopez) can’t conceive. She and her husband head to Ethiopia to adopt. Nothing extreme is included, except for an early miscarriage and a shriek for an epidural during delivery. Most problems, as for instance to circumcise or not, are resolved conveniently and easily. A toned-down Chris Rock leads a sort of Greek chorus of fathers pushing baby strollers in the park and offering pithy comments. It’s an amusing film but too light and superficial to be of much consequence. (The Ridge, International Village, and many suburban theatres)  2 ½ out of 5

More in New Movies

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Also: some angry race relations, a cool Miles Davis, a Chinese surprise and a 5th from John Rambo

Angry history in Official Secrets, dubious flash in Hustlers and a muddle in The Goldfinch

VIFF has just added this: Michael Moore will be here to show and give a creator talk about the film that made his career: Roger and Me. It was the most popular documentary where it premiered at VIFF...
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