Wednesday, June 01, 2016

"Dave" (1993)

Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) runs a temp agency.  He spends his days convincing people he knows to give jobs to other people he knows.  He also moonlights as an impersonator of President Bill Mitchell (also Kevin Kline), opening car dealerships and showing up at birthday parties, that sort of thing.

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?

13 comments:

  1. Yeah . . . I'm not really surprised this movie came out when it did :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jessica, yeah. Though I was surprised to learn how early in Clinton's presidency this came out -- I didn't see it until late '90s when it aired on network TV at some point, but this was not long after he took office. A little prescient in some ways.

      Delete
  2. If you want another gander at Langella as a "slick politician," check out "Frost Nixon." It's a terrific film about Frost interviewing Nixon after the Watergate scandal.

    I know I saw this at some point, but I can't remember much about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charity, I have been wanting to see Frost/Nixon since it was in theaters! Both he and Sam Rockwell look phenomenal in the trailers. One of these days, I'll get to it.

      Delete
  3. Awwwww, I love Kevin Kline. I'm definitely going to have to track this one down.

    And I'm not surprised at Langella playing a first class jerk. He just wears it so exceedingly well! His roles as the "nice guy" truly are few and far between.

    Thanks for writing and participating!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carissa, this is a terrific Kevin Kline movie for when you want to be in a good mood :-D

      Langella really does wear the jerk mantle well. He sneers so contemptuously!

      Thanks for hosting! I hadn't watched this in some years, and it was a good nudge to get me to rewatch.

      Delete
  4. I don't know if you've ever seen or read The Prisoner of Zenda but this sounds like a more modern version of it and that alone intrigues me to watch it. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooohhhhhhhhh . . . Prisoner of Zenda!! I haven't read that one for a long, long time; but I remember it was a super-exciting, romantic, swashbuckling sort of story :-)

      Delete
    2. Lois, I haven't read or seen The Prisoner of Zenda, but that's interesting! There are cool Prince and the Pauper and Man in the Iron Mask parallels here too.

      Delete
  5. Nice review Hamlette! I only saw this one pretty recently after seeing Kevin Kline in Pirates of Penzance where he was totally awesome. I realize now that that's his default setting. :D He was really enjoyable in this movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sarah! I haven't seen Kline's Penzance, but I hope to. I really like him in French Kiss too -- my favorite role of his after this one. And his Hamlet was thoughtful and nuanced, though in the end I didn't care much for the production.

      Delete
  6. I'm pretty sure I've seen this once, but it's been ages ago so I kind of forget what all happens. I remember enjoying it though! I should try watching it again, just to see what I'd think now...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kara, yes! I was so pleased by how much I still liked it, having not watched it in like a decade. In fact, I upgraded my VHS copy to a DVD so I can watch it lots again!

      Delete

Agree or disagree? That is the question...

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)