I’ve always liked Dave. A lot. I think it’s only fair to set my stall out from the very beginning. Some small part of me knows that I like it a lot more than most people do but that doesn’t stop me praising, and rating, it highly when I have the chance. It’s just such a charming, likeable movie full of great moments and I encourage as many people as possible to at least watch it once. It may never become a favourite, but I’d be surprised to hear from someone who didn’t find at least one scene entertaining and mildly amusing in a curiously old-fashioned way. It relies on some great acting, a solid script and a wonderful premise that works as both wish-fulfilment and also a lesson in the realities of political games.
Kevin Kline plays Dave, a very nice guy who tries to help people find jobs. Kevin Kline also plays the President Of The United States, a bit of an asshole who barely talks to his wife (Sigourney Weaver) any longer and arranges a lookalike to stand in for him occasionally when he wants to sneak away for some nookie with some female staff member. Dave is picked to replace the President and he’s perfect, he’s the best lookalike they’ve ever found. Which is handy because the President actually has a bit of a stroke during his latest bit of infidelity (traumatising Randi, played by Laura Linney, in the process) and Dave is asked by a couple of senior staff members (Frank Langella and Kevin Dunn) if he could keep playing the role for just a little while longer until the crisis is over. Dave agrees, unaware of the fact that his every move is being planned by Bob Alexander (Langella, on fine form), a man who wants everything set up just right before he gets himself set up as the next in line to run the country. There’s just one problem with the plan – Dave turns out to be a fantastic, and very popular, President.
Directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Gary Ross, there’s no denying that Dave has some fine talent behind the camera. But do be warned that this is not a movie full of big laughs and obvious gags. Oh no, this is a much gentler film and all the better for it. Are there big laughs? I defy you not to fall absolutely in love with the movie just for the moments set during an impromptu budget meeting. Or during the scene in which Dave and The First Lady are pulled over by traffic police. Admittedly, these moments may not prompt big laughs but they do cause prolonged smiles and feelings of contentment. Which is, arguably, even rarer in modern comedies.
The performances are all superb. Kevin Kline, in both roles, is just perfect and he’s as likeable as he is amusing. Sigourney Weaver is great, the relationship between the two played out in a believable fashion. Kevin Dunn does pretty well but he’s the “good cop” alongside the “bad cop” of Bob Alexander, played by Frank Langella with a sense of quiet menace and constant arrogance that makes him easy to root against. Ving Rhames is worth a chuckle or two as a very professional secret service agent, Ben Kingsley is very good as the Vice President, Charles Grodin makes the most of his limited screentime and creates some more laughs and Laura Linney, playing the root cause of the whole problem (essentially), is hilariously on edge for almost her entire performance.
We use movies to escape from the real world sometimes, to provide comfort and joy, and Dave holds up as the film to do just that, especially in a world that surrounds us with the bleak political landscape we seem to be stuck with for now. It may be little more than a modernised riff on Mr. Smith Goes To Washington to many people but it will always have a spot in my movie collection.
DIRECTOR: IVAN REITMAN
WRITER: GARY ROSS
STARS: KEVIN KLINE, SIGOURNEY WEAVER, FRANK LANGELLA, KEVIN DUNN, VING RHAMES, BEN KINGSLEY, CHARLES GRODIN, LAURA LINNEY
RUNTIME: 110 MINS APPROX