JWR Articles: Film/DVD - If I Were Dictator (Director/Writer: Justin Routt) - May 18, 2009

If I Were Dictator

3 3
76 min.

Stand and deliver lacks punch

For his first feature, director/writer/actor Justin Routt simultaneously turns the camera on himself and the world’s ills (from unbounded flatulence through discarded chewing gum to neglected moms and elders). The result has some hilarious moments (the attack on the refrigerator drawer; brutally swift justice in dictator court), but can’t shed its basic stand-up-and-decree-new-laws conceit and find a unifying tone and momentum to drive home his many points and rekindle the aliens’ interest in a much more intelligent planet.

Having lost a municipal election (the first step toward the presidency), the dictator’s near-immediate elevation to power and near-universal acceptance stems from his inventive genius. A simple device—er, properly inserted where nothing ever shines except for the annual check-up—has made an immediately grateful populace a quieter, less odorous society, now willing to put all governance issues in the fastidiously clean hands of their sudden saviour.

Dressed in authoritative garments that pay homage to Julius Caesar and General George S. Patton, the pig-loving ruler issues myriad edicts as his docile, admiring advisors nod in agreement and “make it so.” Frequent cutaways provide visual relief as the crime under discussion (including dentist fees and credit card interest) is shown being committed or prosecuted. A very large troupe is put to work in the mini sketches that illustrate each item in turn. Noteworthy in the cast are Raul Garcia (Warden of the Prison for Oil Executives where their punishment puts them at one with the animals destroyed in the wake of oil spills), Johanna Roa (nearly having a sexual encounter caught on a hidden camera until her dictator-decreed recorder detection device sounds the alarm), Jennifer Somach (wonderfully over-perky as Suzy Sunshine, award-winning reporter) and Carlos David Glass (engagingly up for his role as a sex therapist who appears to have a foot fetish of his own).

The original music from Trash and Phoenix Nebulon—notably the Olympic-style background as the dictator comes to power and the appropriately reverential tracks during the achiever and hero still-photo montages—keeps the ear engaged and much of the action flowing. With so many plusses in this inaugural production, Routt should be encouraged to lose more of himself in his next effort, employing more show than tell of this considerable talent. JWR

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