Most of the films that I’ve done this year for Politic-a-Thon have been really heavy films. I think it’s time to go a bit lighter and take a look at a more comedic look at politics with Ivan Reitman’s Dave. Now Ivan Reitman is a pretty hit and miss director, when he’s good, he makes comedy classics like Ghostbusters and Stripes but when he’s bad you get stuff like Kindergarten Cop and Junior. Thankfully, Dave falls into the former category, mainly due to a great script by Gary Ross and an excellent performance from Kevin Kline.
The plot concerns Dave Kovic, the head of a temp agency who just so happens to look exactly like the President of the United States. As a result, he’s hired to impersonate the President in order to cover up his extra-marital affair. However, during the affair, the President has a stroke and the Chief of Staff and Communications Director choose to keep Dave in the impersonator role in order to boost their own political standing, with the Chief of Staff wanting to become the Vice President out of it. However, Dave starts to act of his own initiative and goes against the Chief of Staff and Communications Director, leading to the Chief of Staff implicating the President in a fraud scandal, which would force Dave to quit, paving the way for his own run for the Presidency. The film feels a lot like a cross between The Prince and the Pauper and Mr Smith Goes to Washington due to the main character being the doppleganger of a major political figure and the naivety and charm of the central character going up against the corrupt nature of Washington politics. This works as a lot of the elements in the film in regards to the corruption (mainly people buying meetings with the President to influence policy and to circumvent campaign finance laws) have happened in recent years, mainly in the UK with a scandal being created through an event like that happening with members of the House of Lords and David Cameron. Granted, the central idea of no-one noticing that Dave isn’t the President doesn’t really hold up as the two have wildly different personalities, but the explanation that the media gives for this change does make sense in regards to brain damage. I also really like the relationship Dave has with the First Lady. At the start, they don’t connect since the First Lady and the President were barely speaking to each other however, she does pick up on minor details that let her know that she is not talking to her husband. I also get the sense that Dave really respects the First Lady and all of it could have been a Bill and Hilary Clinton scenario if Dave continued to be President.
The performances meanwhile are really good. The obvious standout here is Kevin Kline. He is brilliantly able to portray the distinct personalities that Dave and the President have, the naivety and optimism of Dave and the cold, uncaring nature of the President, aided by really good twinning effects. The sense of optimism that he brings across as Dave, along with the charm, makes him a really likable character and you understand how he was able to win so many people over. Sigourney Weaver also does a good job as First Lady Ellen Mitchell, showing her clear anger with her husband and her commitment to the homeless cause, along with the growing relationship with Dave forming being really believable due to the great chemistry that Kline and Weaver share. Frank Langella meanwhile is enjoyable over the top as Chief of Staff Bob Alexander, Kevin Dunn and Ving Rhames do good work as Communications Director Alan Reed and Secret Service Agent Duane Stevensen respectively whilst Ben Kingsley brings a great deal of respectability to Vice President Nance, showing him to be the only honourable and competent person in the administration and the perfect person to take over, which of course is why Alexander wanted him removed, if Nagle was still there then he would fire Alexander due to Alexander’s corruption.
Overall, Dave is a really good film. There are some individual scenes that don’t work as well as others and the direction is pretty lackluster but a great script, aided by a top central performance by Kevin Kline, makes this a really funny, charming political film.
My Rating: 4/5