Parents' Guide to

Dear Dictator

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Weak comedy about teen, despot has language, sexuality.

Movie NR 2018 90 minutes
Dear Dictator Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 1 parent review

age 17+

BTW, the trailer isn’t honest

They mention sex, there is alot of inappropriate touching/kissing, self harm, the main character tars off another girls underwear then proceeds to publicly pull out her own tampon to throw at the other girl. So I wouldn’t suggest that anyone under 17 watch this.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (1 ):

This comedy has a high concept premise and little else. The idea of a sullen teen and a notorious dictator being pen pals is a rich one, open to a world of possibilities. The high school rebellion has promise, and the filmmakers do get laughs from how comically plain-spoken the despot's correspondence is: "Thank you for your lovely music. My daughter enjoyed it. The rebels have surrounded the capital." Such a comedy could go fully dark (a gloomy Goth learns about actual suffering), gonzo à la Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator, or nebbishy à la Woody Allen's Bananas. Or it could have been an even more subversive Heathers -- or Mean Girls with actual guerilla warfare. Unfortunately, Dear Dictator doesn't choose any true direction. It ducks the realities of despotism: Vincent is the cuddly kind of torturer and mass murderer who's handy around the house. Because viewers never learn anything about him or his country, the images of him on a tricycle or wearing a snarky T-shirt don't pay off. The filmmakers also don't seem to have thought much about his background; he's a third-generation dictator but calls himself a "rebel"? The only people we see from his country are black (he says he's "Latino at heart" or something like that) -- but he's a pale white guy with a South London accent. The film steadfastly avoids political context, apart from some weak calling-out of American hypocrisy during one of Vincent's fits of pique.

The filmmakers also take a limp stab at religious hypocrisy by featuring a romantic interest who loves the Bible and death metal and then falls into a sex tape/cyberbullying trap. Like every other thread, though, that one goes unexplored. It certainly can't gain satirical traction when the film refuses to confront the morality of Tatiana aiding and abetting a human rights violator -- and then taking coup lessons from him. Even a teen suicide attempt is played for laughs. And the off-putting B story about Tatiana's mother's desperate husband-hunting feels totally unnecessary; it's basically an excuse to show her dentist lover (Seth Green) licking her feet. Some performances are played at a jokey-jokey level, while others (notably the two leads) play it low and slow. But any chance of a Harold and Maude-type dynamic is eliminated the first time the wacky comedy music plays. As the moody Tatiana, Rush shows some talent for physical comedy. But because Dear Dictator is reluctant to dive deeply into anything, the proceedings stay at kiddie-pool depth.

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