Dear Dictator (2018)
Critic Consensus: Dear Dictator never comes close to taking advantage of its wildly silly premise -- or the assortment of talented veterans who round out the cast.
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Critic Reviews for Dear Dictator
Unfortunately writer-directors Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse can get only so much mileage out of it, and they cede too much screen time to Katie Holmes as the girl's mother.
Pleasant enough to watch, even innocuous, "Dear Dictator" is something that gets worse the more you think about it.
Distinguished only by the fact that co-writer-directors Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse convinced the great Michael Caine to costar in this thudding mishmash.
Too leaden for farce and too bland for satire, Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse's "Dear Dictator" wastes a potential gold mine of culture-clashing silliness on worn, high school movie clichés.
Audience Reviews for Dear Dictator
So I got a free trial to Starz' channel on Amazon Prime. Because, like the Xzibit meme goes, you can subscribe to a sub-streaming service while you subscribe to a streaming service, so you can stream while you stream. Michael Caine is like a poor man's version of Christopher Walken. It obviously doesn't mean what you think it means, based on what I typed. I love Christopher Walken, much like every person alive, but Caine is a superior actor in almost every regard. The reason I say that, however, is that it seems that Michael Caine is the next level down to Christopher Walken in the impression that people, mostly other celebrities, like to do the most. Everyone and their mother has a Walken impression, slightly less people have a Caine impression. My Caine impression is better than my Walken but, realistically speaking, it's still dreadful. Regardless, I suppose the point should be that Michael Caine is a legendary actor and his filmography will outlive all of us. That's why it pains me to see such a wonderful actor resort to movies like this. Let's be honest, bored Michael Caine is still a better actor than 65% of people out there, but the fact of the matter still is that Caine did this movie for a paycheck and you can tell that the effort that he would normally put into one of his more prominent roles is simply not there. And, you know what, that's a shame. It's a shame because I know how great Caine can be. But, at the same time, it's not like I can blame him. One of the things that's immensely noticeable about this movie is that it feels like it was filmed from an unfinished script. A script that needed to be revised, fine-tuned and improved upon through many drafts before it was actually filmed. The sad thing is that there's a decent enough concept here for a satirical comedy about hierarchies in high school. Anton Vincent, a deposed dictator, moves in with his American pen pal, Tatiana, and he uses his skills as a dictator in order to get Tatiana to conquer her school. There's something here about how there's a need for this kind of social hierarchy and how the few lead the many (and how the many strive this kind of social hierarchy), but the movie, outside of some montages here and there of Tatiana 'deposing' the popular girls at school, doesn't really do anything with the concept of Tatiana, in her own way, becoming a dictator at her school. There's no real progress shown because, at some point later in the film, some random girl bumps into Tatiana and she apologizes profusely for bumping into her. Like Tatiana has somehow, already, established herself as someone to be feared. Yet you never see this transition, Tatiana never really TRULY becomes enough of a dictator for this scene to really work in the context they want to frame it. This is what I said when the film felt incomplete, there's some scenes where the movie expects you to do the work for them. I don't know if it was sheer laziness or, again, just the fact that the script really wasn't finished by the time they had to film, but it is lacking some fairly essential narrative beats that would have helped fill in the blank of how Tatiana, supposedly, became this feared dictator at the top of her school's social structure. The movie's humor is also really bland and broad. Again, the potential for a strong satirical comedy was there, but it falls way short of that and it just ends up being an embarrassment. Perhaps that is too strong of a word to use for this movie, because the second Madea Halloween movie was an embarrassment of epic proportions. This one REALLY isn't an embarrassment, but it falls so short of what it could have actually been that I wonder what the point of it all was. There's also a very jarring tonal shift in the movie that happens after Vincent exposes a sex tape Tatiana's friend sent her, where Tatiana realizes that, maybe, it's not necessarily such a good idea to be taking life advice from a deposed dictator who, earlier on in the film, is shown executing innocent people. Well, his firing squad executed them on his orders. It's not that there shouldn't have been this moment where Tatiana realized that it was a bad idea to be friends with a dictator, it's just that it was handled really poorly in this movie. Once again, the incomplete script rears its ugly head again. I can't stress this enough, I can't imagine that anyone was really, truly, pleased with the dailies of this as they were filming it. I hate to compare it to Mean Girls, but that's where we're going with this. Mean Girls was a complete script, with fully-formed characters whose motivations were clear from the start. It was funny, most importantly, it accomplished its goals of satirizing high school social structures. This movie tries to do some of that without nearly the same effort and skill put into them and it shows in the end result. I mean, I guess the soundtrack is cool, even if I'm not exactly a punk guy. The movie has the typical sentimental ending. You know, I mentioned Madea earlier on this review and Anton Vincent works sort of like that same character in some of the movies she appears in. Vincent comes into a dysfunctional home, turns it upside down and ends up improving Tatiana and her mother's life more than they ever thought possible, teaching them life lessons along the way. So, yea, the fact that the movie tries to force this emotional attachment between the two is a little contrived. Odeya Rush and Michael Caine are both fine and their chemistry is solid enough, but there was anything there that would have led me to believe that these two would be friends for life. It is what it is and that's the path this flick wanted to travel. That it's a good path is highly debatable. So, yea, I wasn't exactly a big fan of this movie. It's fine and I had no problem getting through it, but it completely wastes a decent cast and potential on poorly-written characters, bland comedy, an incomplete narrative. It should be obvious that I wouldn't really recommend this. Watch if you must, but you'll come away highly disappointed.
It's a pretty good idea for a mash-up: teen coming-of-age, high school romp with advice from a third world dictator on the run. It should've been priceless, but instead the set-up is wasted. The talent onscreen is up to the task, and so the fault lies with the script, perhaps not finished enough. There remains enough to see that potential is present and so one is not bored. It's just that the potential is unrealized.
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