Dave (1993) — Lookalike takes over the presidency

“Just get rid of the grin… you look like a schmuck.”

Lissa’s rating: Toby Ziegler could kick Alan Reed’s butt any day.

Lissa’s review: I never expected to be a West Wing fan. I’m not much into politics, and even during my college years when it’s almost mandatory to protest everything from selling arms to Israel to the evil fascism of the administration on campus to what’s for lunch. Actually, I’m more interested in politics now that I’m a True Adult™, but don’t take that as some sign that I’m ready to run for office. I had to look up who the Secretary of my Department is, just so I could say I know if I’m challenged.

Anyway, I bought West Wing for Duckie as an anniversary present, never really intending to watch it. Through puppy dog eyes and bribes of cleaning the toilets he got me to watch the pilot episode, and then I was hooked. Hooked to the point where it’s hard to say who’s the bigger fan, me or him. And if you don’t watch it, you really should check it out on DVD, because it’s really worth while. Tight writing, great characters, and some episodes that have stuck with me for ages (like “In Excelsis Deo.” West Wing fans, you know which one that is.)

So what’s the point of this West Wing propaganda? One thing Duckie and I discovered was it is impossible for us now to watch a White House movie and not compare it to West Wing. Especially Dave, because other members of the staff besides the President and the First Lady are prominent characters. It’s hard not to say “that would be Toby, that would be Leo, that would be Mrs. Landanham…” (And yes, I do recognize the sadness and irony that we were filling those spots with fictional characters instead of the real people.) The sets are completely different too (I’ve been told the sets for the West Wing are much more realistic), and to top it all off, even one of the actresses is the same! Anna Deavere Smith plays the hippie-ish homeless shelter director in Dave, and the kick-ass National Security Advisor Nancy McNally on West Wing. So we were amused, even if you’re not.

Dave has the advantage of having Kevin Kline in the lead role (and supporting role!). I’m a Kevin Kline fan myself. He usually comes off as kind of quirky but rather sweet, and while not being a sex god, he’s still pretty easy on the eyes. I’m not as fond of Sigourney Weaver in this (her haircut is awful and I think I’m not that crazy about her character), but she does a good job, I guess. (Duckie said so, anyway.) Add in the recognizable faces of Ben Kingsley and Laura Linney, and it’s at least amusing in that regard.

Anyway, the obligatory plot summary: The President of the United States, a rather repugnant man who embezzles and cheats on his wife, has a stroke and drops into a coma from which he will never recover. Now, any normal person would say “So they call the Vice President, right?” But see, the Chief of Staff Bob Alexander and his minion Communications Director Alan Reed want nothing to do with pesky things like laws and Constitutions. So instead of immediately notifying the Vice President, they decide to have this doppleganger stand in for the President, and manipulate him as they see fit.

Dave Kovic is a nice guy from a small town who runs a temp agency and isn’t too comfortable with this new life in the White House. Of course, he’s required to cut vital funding for homeless shelters, ignore the First Lady, and cancel kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans as he calls off Christmas. Okay, so maybe I got a little carried away, but still. And of course, the idealistic Dave can’t take this lying down, so when the Chief of Staff makes the off-the-cuff bargain that if Dave can slash a certain amount from the budget he can have his homeless shelters, Dave manages to bring in his accountant best friend and do it, in terms so simplistic that any West Wing watcher starts giggling.

Of course, I do have to wonder about some other things in it. Aside from the leisurely schedule this President seems to have, I find the First Lady eventually falling for Dave kind of bizarre. I mean, talk about some issues, falling for a guy that looks exactly like your husband but is totally different, y’know? Freud would have a field day, I’m sure. In fact, it really kind of squicks me, and I could have really really done without the romantic subplot. But isn’t that the case in about 80% or more of comedies? Really?

Now, for all that I’m mocking Dave, it was a good movie. It was fun, it was sweet, and it was entertaining. Sure, it’s not cinematic brilliance, but it makes a nice change from the stale romantic comedy or angst-ridden drama. It was a nice Friday night movie for after a long week at work. It’s a nice change to see a comedy that doesn’t rely on sex, and I really appreciated a lot of the wit. The acting was good, I laughed a lot, and if I hadn’t taken to watching a political drama, I probably would have only wondered about not calling in the Vice President when the President was down for the count. (Because come on, even I knew that.) Dave does require some suspension of disbelief, but hey, it’s a small price to pay for this one. Rent it and enjoy!

Didja notice?

  • Kevin Kline’s character Dave looks JUST like the guy playing the President! How’d they do that?
  • When Dave explains the President’s hand gestures, he points out the President has one hand in his pocket during a press conference, and Dave puts both hands on the podium when he announces his economic plan.
  • Cameos upon cameos!
  • President Mitchell wears glasses. Dave doesn’t. Kind of like Superman and Clark Kent.
  • In one of the press conferences, there’s a Clamp Cable Network camera from Gremlins 2: The New Batch

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