His adventure begins when he goes to New York — “America: built by the blacks, owned by the Chinese,” he declares — to speak before the United Nations in an effort to ward off further action against his country. Here comes the renowned Saddam ploy of body doubles — and with them, a chance for his scheming uncle and No. 2, played by Ben Kingsley, to try to get Aladeen out of the way and line his pockets with oil contracts in a newly democratic Wadiya (except, he tells BP, don’t bring your own rigs).
After being cast off into American society, Aladeen meets a feminist protester named Zoey — played by Anna Faris, perfect in this role — who runs a mini version of Whole Foods called the Free Earth Cooperative, a feminist vegan store that employs only political refugees and is adorned with pictures of Obama and Che. Zoe, who declares herself so anti-racist that she hasn’t had a white boyfriend in ages, has unshaven underarms and organic deodorant that would “gas the Kurds,” in Aladeen’s words. “I know what I’m talking about because I majored in feminist lit!” she barks at a cop.
The film mercilessly hits on everything from countries that don’t allow women to drive (hello, Riyadh) and countries that only value male babies to “elections” in the post-Arab Spring world. And one dig that the current re-election campaign wouldn’t like: Aladeen notes that Osama bin Laden is still bunking in his guest house, hiding there ever since his body double was shot last year.
There is a lot of gross-out, cringe-worthy humor in this movie, but anyone who saw the hotel wrestling match in Borat should expect that. And there is one especially gross stunt directed at the Israeli delegation at the United Nations — but it actually serves as an exceptionally poignant metaphor for how Israel is actually treated at the UN.
There are a few jabs at the right — remember, in Team America, in Borat, nobody was spared — but the digs at the aforementioned targets far outweigh them. Cohen takes clever stabs at anti-Semitism in the Arab world and at jihadi culture (like his character’s film, You’ve Got Mail Bomb). And who wouldn’t love an Arabic rendition of REM’s “Everybody Hurts” as the dictator yearns for his oppressive post back?