directed by Ivan Reitman
(Warner Brothers, 1993)
America needs a Dave Kovic.
In these politically troubled times, when the nation's courts must force the people to accept a president the majority didn't want, it's a good idea to slip back in time to find some refreshing statesmanship in a movie like Dave.
As Douglas Adams so wisely wrote, "...anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job." That's exactly the case in Dave.
Dave (Kevin Kline) is the conscientious owner of a temporary employment agency. He makes extra income by capitalizing on his remarkable resemblance to President Bill Mitchell. Mitchell (also Kline) is a heavy-handed political player with few scruples and a fondness for White House secretaries.
Dave is tapped to stand in for the president during Mitchell's secret rendezvous with a blond intern. But Mitchell suffers a debilitating stroke mid-coitus, and Mitchell's oily chief of staff, Bob Alexander (Frank Langella), hits on a scheme to use Dave as a semi-permanent front man while he digs up (or invents) a scandal to oust Vice President Gary Nance (Ben Kingsley) from his post. Then Dave can appoint Alexander as the new veep, fake a new stroke and let Alexander take over the country.
What Alexander didn't count on was Dave's genuine love for the country. And Dave wants what's best, not what's easiest, for his people. As says in an address to Congress, a president should "care more about what's right than ... about what's popular."
It sounds potentially trite and sappy, but Dave manages to skirt the pitfalls and present a believable tale. It's a fairy tale, really; who wouldn't want a president who didn't care about political image, power or personal gain?
Alexander exudes vile infamy as the ambitious and conniving chief of staff. He is aided and abetted in his scheme by White House chief of communications Alan Reed (Kevin Dunn), who is only willing to go so far in his deceit before growing a conscience of his own.
Dave has allies of his own in the characters of First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver), who despises her philandering husband but finds a lot of potential in his replacement; Secret Service agent Duane Stevenson (Ving Rhames), whose sense of duty grows into real loyalty; and local accountant Murray Blum (Charles Grodin), who gets far too little screen time as Dave's naysaying chum who singlehandedly rewrites a national budget.
Sure, the movie spirals into a typical Hollywood romance where none was really needed. But I'll overlook that bit of predictability because it never dominates the film and, besides, this movie is so darn fun and it makes so many good points along the way. It's been a long time since Americans were truly proud of their government; it was nice, even knowing it was only a movie, to believe it might be possible someday.
A bonus in this film is the use of various Washington politicos, reporters and other high-profile personalities as themselves. Among the notable appearances are TV hosts Jay Leno and Larry King, fitness guru Arnold Schwarzenegger, Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Senators Paul Simon, Tom Harkin and Christopher Dodd, conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone, and reporters/commentators Eleanor Clift, Bernard Kalb, John McLaughlin, Robert D. Novak, Richard Reeves, Alan Simpson, Helen Thomas and Nina Totenberg.
Do yourself a favor. Turn off the news and ignore the doings in Washington for a day. Vote for Dave.
[ by Tom Knapp ]