on April 11, 2000
Every time I watch this movie (more often now that it is an election year) I am amazed that the implausibility of it doesn't bother me. But it doesn't. Ivan Reitman manages to bring together an impressive group of actors and makes every character on the screen seem real. Kevin Kline is his usual remarkable self, a chameleon playing an idealistic Presidential look-alike swept into national politics. Sigourney Weaver is as warm and interesting as I have ever seen her in movies. Together they are like two children sharing a secret. Watch, for example, the pause at the top of the stairs when they return to the White House after their near-escape.
But my greatest admiration is for Reitman who gives every character in this movie a chance to shine. Charles Grodin being seduced by the promise of bratwurst. Ving Rhames discussing how he looks in a sweater. Ben Kingsley becoming nostalgic about how a shoe salesman became Vice President. Frank Langella humming Hail to the Chief while he forges the president's signature. The timing and subtlety of these touches makes me wonder if this is the same Ivan Reitman who did movies as unsubtle as Ghostbusters!
If national politics is getting you down, this is the perfect antidote. Lovely Washington photography, too. Kevin Kline can be my president any time!
on December 4, 1999
This movie is one of those gems that quietly grows on you -- each viewing creating anticipation and appreciation for its wit and style. The casting is superb. Kevin Kline doesn't know how to give a bad performance. Frank Langella's brilliant characterization of the ambitious, power-hungry 'man behind the throne' is perfect, and a wonderful contrast to his long-ago role as the cad/seducer in Diary of a Mad Housewife.
This is definitely a movie to buy because it needs to be seen many times. The innumerable funny pearls in this movie alone are worth the price of the DVD. For Minnesotans, one of the slyest gags was Dave's gig early in the moview, imitating the President at the grand opening of Durenberger Motors in his home town. The movie was released around the time that David Durenberger (Minnesota's senior senator) was embroiled in an ethics scandal. A personal favorite moment was the scene where Dave (with the help of his accountant buddy played by Charles Grodin) pares the federal budget to save a homeless shelter for children -- the cabinet members bemusedly participating just like a family sitting around the kitchen table wrestling with its own budget. Priceless.
on May 13, 2007
"Dave" was a pleasant enough movie the first time I saw it, in 1993, with the good guys winning, and with superb acting performances by Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, Ben Kingsley, and particularly Ving Rhames and Kevin Dunn in supporting roles. In a very small role, Charles Grodin does his best work that I've seen him do, and has one of the outstanding lines: "Who DOES these books?" Langella is quite believable as the astute, scheming politico who has never been bested; Dunn develops his character's moral conscience as we watch him on screen; and Rhames balances perfectly his character's initial distrust of the faux-president with his growing admiration of--and loyalty to--the kind of integrity so many of us wish we could find in "the leader of the free world."
When I decided to see it a second time, I viewed it as a movie or literary critic would, and found that it held together structurally, it developed organically, and it balanced some pretty heavy duty themes with good humor and almost-perfect timing. We have nearly worn out the original VHS tape that we bought, watching it whenever we want a "feel-good" movie, especially after seeing or reading about too much national and international news. Each time I watch it, I see more complexity to the character development and to the plot intricacies (which at first seem to be pretty straight-forward but, upon reflection, are not quite so simple).
"Dave" grows on its audience, appealing initially because it does represent what so many Americans would really like our government to be like; but it invites repeated viewing because of its texture, its acting, and so many of its memorable lines. How often, for example, can you imagine laughing at, "I once caught a fish THIIIIIISSSS big!" In the context of this movie, however, it is funny repeatedly while contributing seriously to character development. And how touching is the simple statement near the end of the movie, "I woulda taken a bullet for you," spoken quietly though in turbulent surroundings.
Even the ending, sappy though it may seem to be, holds open a subtle promise for the future when it is viewed in the light of the early political career of the movie's Vice President. "Dave" has risen steadily to become one of my five or six favorite movies, with "8 1/2," "Inherit the Wind," "Rear Window," "Tootsie," and "Blazing Saddles." I heartily recommend it: for a good time, call "Dave." Really.
on March 17, 2002
What would you do, as a fulfillment of office, if you were given the chance to stand-in for the President of the United States? "Dave" answers this question in a light political comedy that is sure to please anyone. The film may not be as intelligent a material as "The American President," but it is still a winner in its own right, and much more.
A stroke while on adulterous sex has the incumbent President incapacitated by stroke, and look-alike Dave is secretly planted into the position by the scheming Chief of Staff to prevent the "Boy Scout" VP from taking it otherwise (the movie leaves us to deduce much of the Chief's hidden agenda. It is quite bloody when you think about it.) Other than a breach in democracy and the breaking of a multitude of laws, what follows is the heartwarming story of a White House adventure that is very satirical, endearing, funny, melancholic and ultimately romantic.
Originally, I thought of giving this film four stars, but changed my mind since having noticed that it got better and better with each viewing. Having seen this film more than once, I also found out that what makes "Dave" work is not only its ability to warm the heart, but to make it soar as well. We find a connection with Dave (Kevin Kline) that makes us want to give him a big hug for the things he did in the White House. What is mostly curious is the movie's ability to arouse the pride of the nation, all the while saying (and portraying) that "the country has a lot of problems that we don't want to face them anymore."
The wonderful storyline is seasoned with:
1.) lots of excellent performances (to name one, watch Frank Langella silently boil over as he helplessly watches Dave do cuts with the budget,)
2.) lots of cameos by real-life politicians, and personalities from TV, film and media, lending credibility to an otherwise incredible story.
3.) lots of comic moments,
4.) some one-line punchers such as Sigourney Weaver's "Go to hell..." (for a 1993 movie, this remark seems to hail a future event,) Charles Grodin's "Get out of here as fast as you can!", and the sudden and uncalled for remark of the real president, " ¡Kjust get rid of that grin, you look like a schmuck."
5.) and at least a seemingly irrelevant (and short) but ultimately funny scene where the dialogue veered into the topic of thick necks and sweaters.
This movie is bound to raise different kinds of questions. It makes us ask why things are always otherwise than that of the movie. Could be that this is bred from our want of political heroes, something which our modern world lacks and lacks and lacks. My answer, "Let the film inspire you." However on the other side, one will find implausible such a scenario as the film's premise. My answer, "Who cares??"
on January 25, 2002
Though this film was directed by Ivan Reitman, it's the screenwriter's picture all the way. Gary Ross has made his reputation spinning stories of innocents caught up in the world of the not-so-innocent--or vice versa. With Big, starring Tom Hanks, it was a 12-year old magically transformed into a 30 year old man, contending with the world of grownups. In his latest film, Pleasantville, it's two hip, decidedly uninnocent teenagers zoomed into the innocent world of a typical 50s TV show.
In this, his middle film, it's the owner of a copy shop, Dave, called on to impersonate the president--a high strung cad who's just suffered a heart attack. Dave is a heck of a lot more innocent than most guys his age. Divorced, he busies himself with his work and sports, always hoping to meet the right woman.
What's groovy about this film is that it's a hip, comic American remake of the great Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha. In that film--a powerful drama with no comedy at all--a grievously ill warlord tells his vassals to find a man who resembles him as closely as possible so the warlord can instruct the other man in the ways of ruling a region; if his subjects see him alive and healthy, they'll be reassured and spies from enemy regions will know he's still a force to be reckoned with.
The vassals find a commoner whose resemblance to the warlord is so striking, there's no one else who could do the job. He's told exactly what to do, how to stand, sit, and do all the other stuff a warlord should. The same happens in Dave--he learns what to do from the evil Frank Langella, the White House press secretary. As Dave, Kevin Kline strikes the perfect balance of innocence and determination to right the wrongs so clearly in evidence. And Sigourney Weaver does a more than credible job as the first lady who's charmed by this knowledgeable innocent.
Also here are Ben Kingsley as the just as innocent Vice President (contrast this with his absolutely astounding performance in the recent Sexy Beast as a nasty rotten gangster!) and Ving Rhames, always reliable, as the secret service man who's on Dave's side all the way.
Ross is one smart cookie. Taking Kagemusha and updating it to 90s America, mixing it with big dollops of comedy and a poignant love story, was a great idea. This film really works. Take a look at Ross' other films; they're just as great.
on June 12, 2006
How do you solve a potentially explosive scandal, solve all the world's problems, and get rid of the greed and corruption in the White House? Well, you make an affable liberal actor take the President's place of course!
Kevin Kline plays Dave, an affable temp agency owner who on his off-time likes to do small event impersonations of the President. As for his luck, he strikes an uncanny resemblance, a la the Prince and the Pauper, and is found by the Secret Service to be an ideal candidate for a decoy body while the President is off doing... confidential things.
However, when the real President has a stroke, his advisors don't want to set off a national emergency... especially with a liberal vice-president around to think about. Thus they move Dave in a la The Hudsucker Proxy as the new President... but of course, Dave has a warm heart and an inspiration to try his hardest at everything he does, so... he goes at his job with the energy, charisma, and skill that everyone wants from the most powerful man in the world, even warming the angry scowl off of Susan Sarandon's face!
Of course like most cathartic entertainment like this, it's not so much about the actual presenting of ideas on how to solve all the problems (some hints on where to start are made), but more a vehicle for opening up the minds of the audience to the possibility of TRYING to make the world a better place. You can't get answers from it, but dreams, so dream hard. Don't worry, Ving Rhames will grow to like you.
The true entertainment from this comes from Kline. His acting is wonderfully physical and involved, and bleeds a sincerity to the common man, the salt of the Earth, that keeps the audience cheering for him the entire way.
on January 4, 2003
Hollywood has long bashed politicians in its films. Usually, these greasy-palmed lechs are seen as no more than variations of Willy Stark from ALL THE KING'S MEN. But there have been a few notable exceptions: MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, and now director Ivan Reitman presents Kevin Kline as the sainted president-imposter of DAVE. The plot is nonsense, of course. Kline is a businessman who bears a stunning resemblance to the real president who unexpectedly suffers a stroke. Frank Langella, who also bears an equally stunning resemblance in both looks and attitude to former Nixon henchman Bob Haldeman, recruits Kline to stand in for the president. Kline's imposture is so convincing that everyone, including the president's wife (Sigourney Weaver), is fooled. Langella sees Kline only as a buffoon, easily manipulated until he is ready to annoint himself as the new president.
The joy of DAVE is watching an updated version of the fish out of water routine. Kline is genuinely funny as he struggles to master the protocol needed to run the free world. What gives DAVE a touching resonance is the subtle transformation of Kline as the admitted fish out of water to a good-hearted human being who slowly realizes that the power of the presidency can do far more for America than merely enrich the one who sits in the Oval Office. Even the burgeoning romance between Kline as the fake president and Weaver who thinks him the real thing is touching. Director Reitman diluted the focus of interest with a deluge of cameos of famous politicians and Hollywood stars, all of whom do little more than add one moment of cheap laughs in a movie that tries hard for serious laughs about serious issues that range from who we are to who we might be. It is the totality of questions about the need to establish our moral center in our rightful identity that makes DAVE such a refreshing breath of air after the thundering blasphemies of that self-appointed crude politico Willy Stark.
on November 23, 2007
I've been interested in this movie since it came out, and finally watched it. It was better than I expected. My wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed this movie. There is one scene, one of just a handful that added the -13 to the PG rating, that we had qualms about, but even that scene had a key place in the story.
I love movies about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and rise above them. This is an example of such a movie, and it is great. The cast is fantastic. And it saves one funny scene for the end.
One other good thing about this movie -- it uses real life politicians and political analysts. The one draw back, which is normal (unfortunately) for Hollywood, is that the Democrats all side with the hero, while the Republicans are more skeptical. I wish that every pro-Democrat movie would be matched with a pro-Republican movie, but it would take three years of every movie being pro-Republican to accomplish that (at least).
I highly recommend this movie, and if you don't believe me, note how many 2 and 1 star reviews this movie received. At this point, it's zero combined. Only seven three star reviews. There are more than four times as many four star reviews than three star, and the four star and three star (and for that matter the one and two star) reviews combined are less than the five stars.
on July 16, 2000
I liked DAVE. The first time I saw it, I thought it was a funny, well-written comedy. Re-watching it more often, I've come to appreciate that Kevin Kline as both the ill President and the hapless impostor gives off a great performance in this film - he's utterly watchable and has commendale skill at getting the laughs in the right places.
Sigourney Weaver is similarly fantastic as the strong and independent First Lady who finds herself becoming attracted to the Presidential impostor. Fill the rest of the cast with great performances from some well-known character actors and you have DAVE.
The plot may strike soom as bizarre or impossible: but BLAZING SADDLES, GREMLINS and many other comedy classics had crazy plots. Put yourself in the mood for having a great time and enjoy the jokes that come frequently in this film.
I give DAVE four stars because there are a few jokes that fall flat and it does seem slightly overlong. However, the great cast compensate for these flaws to produce a film that you'll probably want to watch again.
on August 15, 2006
I'm starting to think that the number one requirement for the job of "president" should be "acting experience." We seem to do rather well when we have an actor in office, whether in fiction or in real life. I also love Ben Kingsley's character in this film. Someone with his integrity in the White House . . . Perhaps that's too much to hope for. We can always dream, though, and "Dave" is quite a pleasant daydream, even if it could never happen in real life.