The 1989 Oscar-winner for A Fish Called Wanda, Kevin Kline uses all his nimble comedy skills and appears to be thoroughly enjoying himself in every actor’s dream of twin roles. He stars as Dave Kovic, a sweet-natured and caring Baltimore temp employment agency operator, who by a staggering coincidence looks exactly like the 44th US President Bill Mitchell who uses doubles for public appearances.
Director Ivan Reitman (1984’s Ghostbusters) is back in a variant on his movie Twins (1988) for this 1993 comedy, and delivers another engaging audience pleaser.
The American Secret Service recruits Kline’s Dave Kovic onto the presidential payroll to impersonate the philandering President and stand in for him on official business while the real one wants to escape an official luncheon and go out bonking. But then the President has a massive stroke while having sex with one of his aides, and Kline’s Dave has to go into action in earnest, now trapped in the presidential role indefinitely. That’s not too bad, but how on earth can he fool the beautiful First Lady, played by Sigourney Weaver?
Frank Langella plays the corrupt and manipulative US Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander, who plots to use Dave to elevate himself to the White House. But he doesn’t expect to find Dave enjoying himself in office, using his luck to make America a better place, and falling in love with the First Lady, Ellen. Ben Kingsley has a tasty role as Vice-President Nance.
Gary Ross has come up with an excellent set-up and plotline, but his shaky, hit-and-miss screenplay is burdened with some over-broad humour that lets down some terrific performers who nevertheless carry on regardless and go into overdrive to raise laughs.
Greater subtlety, fuller character development and more evenness of tone are needed in Dave. With these, this could have been a classic comedy. But there’s still enough zesty entertainment to make for an enjoyable movie and it all ends up as agreeable, easy-going, good-natured fun.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oliver Stone, Jay Leno and Larry King are the most famous of a slew of real-life names who appear in cameos as themselves.
© Derek Winnert 2014 Classic Film Review 946
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