Are pen pals still a thing in the age of internet trolls and other online dangers? I’m not sure if they are, but that’s the premise of the new movie Dear Dictator. Odeya Rush plays Tatiana, a teenage girl who’s always on the edges of the social dynamic at her school. One day she decides to start writing letters to a British-Caribbean dictator named General Anton Vincent (Michael Caine), who is in the news because of the atrocities being committed in his country.
When Vincent is forced to flee a coup he winds up looking for and finding Tatiana and teaching her how to rule her school with an iron fist, taking down the mean girls and other bullies that have plagued her existence for too long. Of course not everyone is cool with this situation and things quickly escalate as Vincent’s presence in the suburbs is no longer concealable and has to be dealt with.
Rush and Caine are the primary figures on the poster, which puts them against a brick wall bearing, on each side, graffiti that’s appropriate to their individual background and circumstances. The two are obviously a pair, with the copy reinforcing the connection by saying “She thought she was a rebel…until she met a real one.” It’s bright and colorful but suffers from an overall lack of any real design sense, including how the two stars are positioned at roughly equal height, which is ridiculous.
We find out as the trailer starts why Tatiana has begun corresponding with Vincent, taking the most annoying route to completing a class assignment. They each narrate their own sides of their back-and-forth, each saying that the other is one of the few that provides any joy or understanding in their lives. When Vincent escapes the revolution that has engulfed his nation he finds her and determines to stay with her. That leads to some awkward moments with her family and teachers. Eventually Vincent begins teaching her how she can take back her power and deal with all those who have wronged her.
Look, Caine can sell just about anything and Odeya looks pretty funny here. It doesn’t look all that great, but there is a certain charm to the trailer, which relies heavily on selling the film on the “fish out of water” aspect of the story, with Caine’s Vincent having to adjust to a non-paranoid military life. More than anything it makes me want Hollywood to cast Katie Holmes, who plays Rush’s mother, in more comedies.
Online and Social
Near as I can tell there was no official web or social presence for the movie at all. It received some limited support on Cinedigm’s social channels, but that’s about it.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’ve seen.
Media and Publicity
It’s a disappointing, messy campaign for a movie that can’t seem to find a single identity it wants to sell to the public. It’s being positioned as a kind of screwball teen comedy, but I’m not sure we’re in a place right now to be laughing hysterically at the homicidal nature or banana republic tyrants. Rush seems funny enough but Caine is obviously phoning this one in. Being cast as a Latin American dictator is something he apparently couldn’t even try to overcome.
Totally forgettable but for a few laughs, it’s 100% obvious why this is getting such a small campaign before a VOD release.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.