Wednesday, June 01, 2016
One day, Secret Serviceman Duane Stevenson (Ving Rhames) shows up at Dave's house and asks him to serve his country by being a stand-in for the real President. Smile and wave while the President is otherwise engaged, that sort of thing. Dave is a patriotic do-gooder and can't wait to help out, so they whisk him off to Washington D.C.
It turns out that President Bill Mitchell is a charismatic jerk who's having an affair with one of his secretaries. (Yeah, this came out during the Clinton administration, why do you ask?) Dave gets to pretend to be the President while Mitchell and said secretary (Laura Linney) rendezvous. But then Mitchell has a stroke while in flagrante delicto that renders him a comatose vegetable.
President Mitchell's right-hand man, Bob Alexander (Frank Langella) cooks up a scheme to keep his position of power and maybe eventually get himself declared President. With the President's other aide, Alan (Kevin Dunn), he asks Dave to just keep pretending to be the President for a few days. They downplay Mitchell's condition and emphasize how its Dave's patriotic duty to help the country feel like their President is still in control.
Because this is a comedy, Dave agrees. He even manages to fool the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver), the press, and even many of the White House staff. For a while, it seems like Bob Alexander came up with the perfect solution. He sends the Vice-President (Ben Kingsley) to Africa and pulls the strings on his new Presidential puppet, and everything is fine.
But Dave realizes he has a lot of power now, and he sets about righting some of the wrongs he sees around him. He wants to balance the budget and help the poor, and when he realizes that Bob Alexander has a decidedly scurrilous agenda, he decides to try to fix that as well.
Dave is one of my very most favorite comedies, partly because aside from Bob Alexander and Bill Mitchell, all the characters are just so nice! Dave isn't just cheerful and kind, he also has a deep desire to help people. I relate to that a lot. First Lady Ellen Mitchell has a passion for helping the homeless, Secret Serviceman Duane helps Dave navigate his first few days in the White House, and the Vice-President is a sweet boy scout.
Kevin Kline seems to be having an absolute blast in this comedy. This is the first thing I ever saw him in, and I've had such a soft spot for him ever since. He absolutely nails Dave's blend of sincerity, naivete, and earnest happiness.
This is also the first thing I ever saw Sigourney Weaver in, and I think of her as Ellen Mitchell first and foremost even though I've seen her in several other things over the years. She brings an elegance and gravitas to the role, with an undercurrent of sorrow that is hugely appealing to me.
And this is the first thing I ever saw Frank Langella in as well. It took me several viewings of his The Mark of Zorro (1974) to wash Bob Alexander out of my head, because he embodies the role of corrupt politician so flawlessly, and I'd always associated him with it. He sneers, glares, smooth-talks, and connives with the best of them.
Is this movie family friendly? Mostly, but not entirely. There's a scene of the President and his secretary enjoying each other that's pretty easy to skip. Later, the First Lady interrupts Dave while he's showering, and you can see some rear nudity through the shower door. There's a little mild cussing. That's it.
I wrote this review specifically for the Frank Langella Celebration that's going on today through June 3 over on Carissa's blog, Cab Drivers and Coffee Pots. If you want a taste of this movie, you can watch the trailer on YouTube here, and it gives you a great idea of the movie's flavor. It does include a little of that shower scene, though, so maybe don't watch it around impressionable young kids who ask a lot of questions?