Michael Caine can't make sense out of this fuzzy homage to dictatorial life hacks.
We suddenly forgive you for making “Jaws: The Revenge,” Michael Caine.
“Somebody said, ‘Have you ever seen Jaws 4?’ I said, ‘No. But I’ve seen the house it bought for my mum. It’s fantastic!'” Caine once told the host of “The Jonathan Ross Show.”
So when can we expect a similar explanation for “Dear Dictator?”
The political satire is duller than a bread knife from your great-grandmother’s kitchen. It’s also morally toxic, revealing a murderous dictator who spits out life hacks to a smitten mother and daughter combo.
And, if you squint really hard, you can see where the laughs were supposed to go.
Caine stars as General Anton Vincent, the troubled dictator of an unnamed (but very poor) nation. His people are sick of his lies, and a rebellion could dethrone him at any moment. It’s why he’s happily distracted by a series of pen pal notes from Tatiana (Odeya Rush, “Lady Bird”). She’s a disaffected teen who hates her single mom’s dating mores and the Mean Girls who rule her school.
Tatianna thinks he’s “cool,” much to the chagrin of her history teacher (Jason Biggs). “Dictators get a bad rap,” she explains.
So when the inevitable coup kicks in, Anton naturally seeks shelter in Tatiana’s garage. Turns out the man who ruled his nation with an iron fist is a whiz in the kitchen, a natural handyman and the perfect person to help Tatiana take on those school bullies.
FAST FACT: Michael Caine famously fell for his future wife, Shakira Baksh, when he spotted her in a commercial for Maxwell House coffee.
The story’s moral rot is an afterthought given the other screen atrocities in play. Caine is so miscast it’s quite possibly a crime. It’s still hard to imagine any actor making Vincent his own, in his defense.
“Dear Dictator” plays footsie with rebellions, revolutions and other socialist tics. Only it’s heart isn’t quite in it. Tatiana’s war against the Mean Girls is a snore. The same is true for her flirtation with a wildly hypocritical “Jesus Freak.”
At one point Tatiana freaks when she learns Anton cyber-bullied someone. It’s the shrewdest moment in the film, revealing how today’s woke teens care more about minor threats than real-world issues.
Or are we giving the writing/directing team of Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse too much credit?
The film attempts to show the folly of Anton’s dicatorial ways. We see him posing for propaganda pictures and explaining away critical shortages to his fed-up citizens. Later, he dismisses talk of him torturing innocents by intimating the U.S. has done far worse around the globe.
Get this guy his own MSNBC show!
Before the inevitable Coup de Tatiana we get to know the teen’s mama. Katie Holmes is pining for a married dentist with a foot fetish (Seth Green). Suddenly, her charming house guest doesn’t look so bad.
Yes, after Anton fixes a faucet drip and the garage door Holmes’ character crushes on the 80-something dictator.
All of the above could work with pinpoint comic timing, wry social commentary and a story that spins on its own delirious axis.
Nothing of the kind can be seen in “Dear Dictator.” At least we’re spared the sight of a malfunctioning shark robot.
Hit or Miss: “Dear Dictator” isn’t just the worst movie of 2018 (so far). It’s a morally indefensible slog that cozies up to “resistance” blather without a shred of entertainment value.