Film Review: DEAR DICTATOR (USA 2016) ***1/2

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Dear Dictator Poster
Trailer

When political turmoil forces a British-Caribbean dictator to flee his island nation, he seeks refuge and hides with a rebellious teenage girl in suburban America, and ends up teaching the young teen how to start a revolution and overthrow the “mean girls” in her high school.

 

DEAR DICTATOR has an usual and outrageous premise for its script.  Dictator teaches school girl how to deal with the ‘mean girls’ in her school while initiating a revolution on his own island.

When political turmoil forces a British-Caribbean dictator to flee his island nation, he seeks refuge and hides with a rebellious teenage girl in suburban America, and ends up teaching the young teen how to start a revolution and overthrow the “mean girls” in her high school.  The sparks really fly when General Anton Vincent (Michael Caine) actually appears to Tatiana (Odeya Rush).  “Don’t worry, mom!  He is not a creepy child molester.  He is just a Dictator!”  Tatiana re-assures her mother after she finds him in the closet, thinking she has hidden Danny there.  Other subplots like the one with the mother (Katie Holmes) trying to make it with her employee, dentist (Seth Green) also works the humour favourably.

Despite the highly unbelievable plot, the script makes no effort to make it more credible, which is a good thing.  The film takes it that everything as a given and totally believable and even takes things several steps further.

The film also works primarily due to the comedic performance of veteran British actor Michael Caine.  Caine seldom does comedy, but when he does he can be really funny, as he proved in his role as the father of Austin Powers, Nigel Powers in GOLDMEMBER.   I still remember his classic line in that movie “There are only two people I do not like in this world – the racists and the Dutch.”  The reason Caine is so funny is that he takes all the writing dead seriously, delivering the lines as if his life depends on it.  The result is the over-the-top humour that suits most of the writing in this film.  The film has a preposterous over-the-top premise and Caine makes it work.  And work well.  It is good to see Caine take on a variety of different roles and not old fart roles like a seniors trying to have sex or fall in love.  Other comedians Seth Green and Jason Biggs as Mr. Spines are also funny.

The film also contains many messages as well, and hilariously delivered at that.  The film pokes fun at America as the General criticizes Americans saying:” You eat and eat until you cannot speak anymore.”   He even convinces Tatiana that she has the power to change her school.  Also the General teaches her to diffuse factions as they rule by “fear or love”.

The film contains many quotable lines.  Besides Hamlet’s “Conscience makes cowards of us all”, there is the General Anton quote: “I am a rebel, I keep going until I am stopped!”

Another surprise is the film’s serious tone.  General Anton’ speech to Tatiana about doing what’s right despite hurting the ones one loves should be taken with a pinch of salt.

A smaller budget comedy that is well delivered because everyone is convinced that the material works, ends up entertaining and hilarious for audiences as well.  Many, many laugh-out loud moments.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drbcXMdfNkA

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