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Sacha Baron Cohen is facing a real turning point in his career, and it will be interesting to see how things progress.
The joy of discovering his early work was due at least in part to the feeling that you were in on a secret. Watching Ali G or Borat or Bruno interact with real people was amazing because of how seriously people took these insane creations of his. Even when "Borat" arrived in theaters, there was still a sense that something deranged was happening, something that was amazing to witness.
The one problem with that kind of humor is that a performer can only keep up that kind of ruse as long as he's not famous. The moment people start to recognize you, it's impossible for you to interact with the real world, and Sacha Baron Cohen is arguably one of the most recognizable comic performers working today.
I thought "The Dictator" was very funny this summer, but for people who wanted more of the "Borat"/"Bruno" school of gotcha comedy, it seemed less exciting than his earlier work. I think Cohen's got chops as an actor that we've just barely seen demonstrated onscreen, and while he's done nice work in films like "Hugo" and "Sweeney Todd," it still feels like there's more to his talent.
I've heard a lot about the Freddie Mercury film he's been developing, and I wish someone would pull the trigger and make it already. It sounds awesome, and I'm guessing the performance would be something special. He immerses himself so totally in a character when he's working that I think a biopic, especially one of a personality as outsized as Mercury, would be an amazing fit for him.
In the meantime, though, it looks like Paramount has signed him to make his next movie for them, and it's going to be a spy comedy about a James Bond-like super agent who ends up on the run with his long lost soccer hooligan brother. Phil Johnston, who wrote "Cedar Rapids," "Wreck-It Ralph," and Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," which starts shooting soon.
I'm curious to see which spy movies they'll be making fun of in the film. After all, there are many different styles of spy film. James Bond is certainly a big touchstone these days, but the Bourne movies also seem to have helped redefine action movies and I'm guessing that'll be in the mix as well.
We'll see, and in the meantime, "The Dictator" is set to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on August 21.