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Dave (1993)


You all probably know the tale of The Prince and the Pauper: a working-class guy who just happens to be the spitting image of somebody rich and important is asked to take the place of Rich and Important Guy. Think that couldn’t work today? Ivan Reitman disagrees.

Dave is a comedy-drama film written by Gary Ross and directed by Ivan Reitman. It stars Kevin “Silverado” Kline, Sigourney “Alien” Weaver, Frank “Superman Returns” Langella, Kevin “Transformers” Dunn, Ving “Pulp Fiction” Rhames, and Ben “Suspect Zero” Kingsley.

Dave Kovic (Kline) runs a temporary employment angency in Washington D.C. By chance, he bears a striking resemblance to U.S. President Bill Mitchell (also Kline, only an asshole), which he uses during side jobs impersonating him in such things as car advertisements and supermarket openings. He’s just an ordinary guy, who is about to be asked to do something extraordinary in service of his country. Chief of Staff Bob Alexander (Langella) approaches Kovic to act as a presidental body double to help conceal Mitchell’s extramarital affair with a White House secretary, having Kovic appear as the President while the real deal is off sweating up the sheets. However, during the course of the ruse, Mitchell’s extracurricular activities cause him to suffer a severe stroke, leaving him in a coma with no prospect of recovery, and the hapless Dave in his place to keep up appearances. Only Alexander, Communications Director Alan Reed (Dunn), and Secret Service Agent Duane Stevensen (Rhames) are aware of the ruse; First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Weaver) largely ignores her husband, utterly despising him. One should note that Kovic has no clue how to be a politician; this is both a good thing and a bad thing.

As Dave settles into his role, he plays the President they way he thinks the Commander in Chief should act – helping the common people, just as he did in his previous job. He has his accountant help him rewrite the United States budget to allow funds for a previously cancelled homeless shelter program, over Alexander’s protests, and he finds himself rapidly falling in love with the First Lady, his own “wife”. However, he is largely unaware of a plot to implicate Vice President Gary Nance (Kingsley, in one of his few truly benevolent roles) in a fraud that Alexander and Mitchell perpetrated. Once Nance is out of the way, Alexander plans to have Dave nominate him as V.P. and have a very convenient second stroke, landing Alexander in the Oval Office.

I don’t watch many comedies, but I found this movie to be charmingly funny. Kline as Kovic was a humble, good-hearted everyman uncorrupted by the customs of politics as usual, while Kline as Mitchell, in the character’s brief scenes, was a smug, opportunistic bastard, the sort of politician you love to hate – and he was convincing as both. Weaver was a sharped tongued defrosting ice queen as the First Lady, initially hating her “husband” out of habit but eventually being charmed by his simple kindness. And Frank Langella, whom I’d previously seen as that creepy guy with an offer in The Box is a persuasive manipulative bastard. Ving Rhames, as always, plays Ving Rhames, a no-nonsense badass who doesn’t take any shit, even from his supposed charge.

This modern-day take on an old story was also surprisingly fresh for its more modern setting. While a ruse of this magnitude might seem implausible at first, the amount of security surrounding the President would make this surprisingly simple (see Vantage Point for another example). Watching Dave stumbling through his new life is well-rewarded when he finally got his feet under him, and further rewarded when the American public starts coming around to this new, revitalized President Mitchell, making me hope that Kovic could be a hundred times the President that Mitchell was – and in his own way, he was.

If you’re looking for a charming comedy featuring a new twist on an old plot, I recommend this movie. Dave does not disappoint.

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