Reuniting with Borat and Brüno director Larry Charles, Sacha Baron Cohen plays the dictator of the fictional Wadiya.

This time, Cohen has abandoned the spoof documentary format of his previous movies to create a far more conventional comic vehicle.

General Admiral Haffaz Aladeen is the despotic and idiotic ruler of his North African country, but falls victim to a plot by his scheming second-in-command (Ben Kingsley) during a trip to New York to address the United Nations.

He is replaced by his body double and shorn of his distinctive beard. Now unrecognisable, he finds refuge with a lefty vegetarian feminist (Anna Faris) while he schemes to regain power.

Though a lot of the jokes are predictable and, naturally, very un-PC, there are a few standout sequences that show off the star’s gifts for physical and verbal comedy – including a would-be torture scene involving John C Reilly and a side-splitting helicopter ride in which he’s mistaken for a terrorist. And there’s a brilliantly delivered speech, in which Cohen unwittingly draws parallels between a repressive dictatorship and the present-day US, that has genuine satirical bite.