Sacha Baron Cohen has signed to play the lead role in "The Dictator," a political comedy based on Saddam Hussein's very own 2000 novel, "Zabibah and the King." (He may not have written it all by himself, but he did put his name on it.)
A very Cohen-esque press release says that it "tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed."
Apart from the enticing prospect of top-flight satire meeting juicy burlesque, it's great to hear that Cohen will be working with a clearly-defined character and plot. "Borat" was a wild comedy-verite breakthrough, but "Bruno" was a mockumentary fiasco. As an improvisatory movie comic, Cohen is hit-or-miss, but as a comic actor he's consistently sensational.
In "Talledega Nights," as the inscrutably Gallic Jean, Cohen had the most hilarious intonations since Peter Sellers' Clouseau, going from throaty to nasal in nanoseconds. While cruising to his many victories, he could sip a machiato or prop a copy of Camus' "The Stranger" (in French, of course) against his steering wheel.
In the "Madagascar" movies, Cohen was deliciously daft as Julien, king of the lemurs, especially when he sang Tina Turner's "Private Dancer" as a ruminative ballad.
And as a preening peacock of a barber in "Sweeney Todd," Cohen stole several precious minutes of the movie -- again, in song: "Now, signorini, signori, / We mix-a da lather / But first-a you gather / Around, signorini, signori, / You looking a man / Who have had-a da glory / To shave-a da Pope! / Mr. Sweeney whoever - / I beg-a your pardon - 'll / Probably say it was only a cardinal... / Nope! / It was-a da Pope!"
Let's hope there's a musical number in "The Dictator."