March 12, 2018 Dear Dictator (Movie Review)
An English-Caribbean dictator threatened by his own people, a 15 year old social outcast, her crazy single mom and a dentist with a preference for feet: how well does all this go together in one movie? Set for release in theaters and on VOD Friday, March 16, 2018 through Cinedigm, Dear Dictator, a satirical Comedy by writers and directors Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse (known for their work as writers on Lover Girl 1997 and Amateur Night 2016), does feature all of the aforementioned while maintaining a clear way to narrate its story.
Fifteen-year-old high school outcast Tatiana Mills (Odeya Rush: The Giver 2014, Goosebumps 2015) lives with her chaotic, single mother Darlene (Katie Holmes: Dawson’s Creek series, Teaching Mrs. Tingle 1999), stuck in a job as an assistant to a foot fetishist dentist (Seth Green: Austin Powers in Goldmember 2002, Robot Chicken series), in a not-so-normal household.
Tatiana, being the weird punk and the regular target for bullying – particularly by a clique of popular girls headed by Sarvia (Fish Myrr in her feature-length film debut) – writes a letter to Anton Vincent (Michael Caine: The Italian Job 1969, Batman Begins 2005), dictator of a Caribbean island unknown to the audience, as part of an assignment for her social studies class, just because she “likes his style.”
Shocked by this, her teacher, Mr. Spines (Jason Biggs: American Pie film series, Orange is the new Black series) is eager to schedule an appointment with Tatiana’s mother to talk about her behavior at school overall.
What Mr. Spines does not know is Tatiana actually receives a return letter from her new pen pal and, after exchanging letters regularly and developing an unusual friendship, the dictator-in-distress – threatened by his own people due to hunger and lack of basic goodness in his country – decides to visit his American comrade to avoid getting beheaded and to teach her the skills for a successful revolution in her school. After Anton appears in her mother’s garage, Tatiana is frightened at first but soon they do develop a deep bond, reminiscent of a grandfather-granddaughter relationship, filling the gaps of a missing father for Tatiana and daughter for Anton respectively.
Addario and Syracuse present us a satirical Family Comedy with a mixed cast of actors most well-known for their roles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as young, fresh actors without any major, previous experience. While developing a lot of subplots during Dear Dictator’s 90 minute run-time, the directors never lose focus on the frame narrative, the relationship between Tatiana and Anton, which makes it easy for the audience to follow the film’s plot. The film has a few side stories though, all giving explanations on certain characters’ behavior towards each other or their environment.
The film was shot in a seemingly quiet neighborhood in a suburb in Georgia, maintaining this feeling of a normal, sometimes a bit boring, “everyday” environment, giving a contrast to the events in Darlene’s and Tatiana’s household, which makes the film enjoyable. Bringing a troubled-teenager and an old-fashioned communist dictator together in an American city is a fresh idea that has not been done before, and despite it sounding absurd it works quite well; however, the film cannot be taken seriously at all and its satirical elements are obvious.
Dear Dictator is a family-friendly Comedy one may watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon without being disappointed at all. Its strong points are the cast doing a wonderful job and making their roles really believable, the plot with its fresh ideas, and its strong soundtrack featuring a mix of well-fitting Punk songs. Ultimately, despite all its positive aspects, Dear Dictator fails to raise the bar for Satirical Comedies and rather relies on solid entertainment. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Dear Dictator 3.5 out of 5 stars.