2 1/2 stars = Average
Sacha Baron Cohen has made a career of culture clashes -- from Kazakhstani reporter Borat to Austrian fashionista Bruno -- and of his fanatical commitment to fictional characters mucking about in the real world.
This time he is Admiral General Aladeen, the ruthless ruler for life of Wadiya, an oil-rich African nation. He inherited that job at age 6, when his father was killed in a freak hunting accident. Aladeen boasts 118 honorary doctorates and a diploma in spray tanning from Qatar Community College. He is also a sexual dynamo and a world-class champion runner -- winner of his own Olympics, in which he traditionally fires the starting gun and keeps it, while running, to shoot competitors during the race.
At the moment, Aladeen has been summoned by the United Nations to address concerns that Wadiya is just months away from developing nuclear weapons. He agrees to go but, like all top-tier tyrants, needs a new body double to stand in for him and be assassinated in New York. His treacherous and corrupt henchman Tamir (Ben Kingsley) locates a dimwit dead ringer for Aladeen to pass off at the big UN gig.
Once in New York and shorn of shrubbery, he looks like a mutant cross between Abby Hoffman and Frank Zappa. There, he runs into his ex-chief nuclear scientist (Jason Mantzoukas), whom he thought he had executed, among the Wadiyan refugees at Manhattan's popular Death to Aladeen restaurant. Later, he is rescued from an anti-Aladeen rally by spunky Zoey (Anna Faris), vegan-feminist manager of the Free Earth Collective. He falls in love with her, adopts the clever pseudonym "Allison Burgers" and joins her staff -- all leading up to an inevitable absurd climax at the UN.
How broad is this farce? Extreeemely broad -- even broader than "Borat" (2006) or "Bruno" (2009). Mr. Cohen's Aladeen is a hybrid of Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi and Soupy Sales on methamphetamines. Director Larry Charles (who also helmed "Borat" and "Bruno" as well as "Curb Your Enthusiasm") tailors everything to his star's hijinks but this time without the mockumentary device: No real people are sought or ridiculed for their reactions.
Along the way, we're sure to find something to grossly offend every race, creed, disability and sexual orientation. The percentage of vulgarity to perspicacious political satire is about 50-50. It's vulgar, scatological, semi-obscene and never as funny or fresh as "Borat."
It is available in a Blu-ray/DVD combo that includes an unrated version of the film with nearly 20 minutes of footage not seen in theaters, as well as the original theatrical version. The set also includes more than 30 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, a Larry King interview with Admiral General Aladeen, a Digital Copy and more. The single-disc DVD will also include the unrated version and the original theatrical version, as well as select deleted scenes.
TV ON DVD
3 stars = Good
ABC's throwback soap, "Revenge," became a modest hit in its first season with all sorts of sudsy shenanigans. The first-season DVD release ($45.99, ABC Studios) includes a plethora of deleted scenes and three minutes of bloopers (Madeleine Stowe appears to be particularly blooper-prone).
But for fans of off-kilter comic relief Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann), the most revealing bonus feature is an "unearthed" local news interview with Nolan that suggests he has a messy background, too.
Other extras include three substantive behind-the-scenes featurettes devoted to the making of the show, a set tour and the fashions worn by the show's stars.
-- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Bernie" (3-1/2 stars): Jack Black stars in director Richard Linklater's docudrama-mockudrama true story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a genial mortician who takes pride in making the dead look better than they did alive. The trouble starts when a wealthy old battle-ax, whom he befriended (played by Shirley MacLaine), disappears. What results is a blissful black comedy based on a bizarre slice of real life.
• "A Separation" (3-1/2 stars) The first movie from Iran to win the Academy Award for foreign film is a story of a thwarted divorce, which leads to a legal and moral thicket.
• "The Closer: The Complete Seventh and Final Season": Kyra Sedgwick cable detective series.
• "NCIS: The Ninth Season": Mark Harmon stars.
• "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season One, Volume One": Includes 30 episodes of the action series.
• "NCIS: Los Angeles -- The Third Season": Chris O'Donnell stars in the TV crime drama.
• "6 Bullets": A mercenary is the last hope for a desperate father.
• "Perry Mason: Season Seven, Volume One": Perry Mason continues to win in court.
• "The Adventures of Tintin -- Season Three": Includes "The Red Sea Sharks" adventures.
• "Halloween 4" and "Halloween 5": Both films are on Blu-ray.
• "Sweet Kill": Gym teacher (Tab Hunter) becomes a killer.
• "Good Will Hunting": The 15th anniversary edition is on Blu-ray.
• "House: Season Eight": Final season of the TV medical drama.
• "Angelina Ballerina: Dreams Do Come True": Angelina is determined to make her dreams come true.
• "Elevator": A group of people learn life has its ups and downs.
• "One in the Chamber": Action thriller starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Dolph Lundgren.
-- PG staff and Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers