You can call me Dave…
A romantic comedy with a US President, his lookalike and a first lady.
Dave – Trailer, Warner Movies On Demand and pictures © Warner Bros.
The film to be reviewed is Dave (1993), a political romantic comedy with the lead, Kevin Kline here playing two roles – an ordinary man called Dave Kovic and the US President Bill Mitchell – alongside Sigourney Weaver, as the First Lady Ellen Mitchell. I’ve seen this film twice, and on both occasions, I sobbed. So if you are a bit of a romantic, get some tissues now.
Dave also has a high number of appearances by real-life political figures and media personalities and one actor cum political figure. This actor was Arnold Schwarzenegger who was the only political cameo I recognised – with me easily recognising the media ones – then in as my Darlin’ Husband called it in his “Conan the Republican” phase – long before he became Governor of California. The only other politician recognisable to me in the early 1990s, being the Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California was
Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood.
I’m not that into American politics – or politics full stop – and have never been. As a teen, I remember it was my father who – despite him claiming he wasn’t watching the soap – recognised two well-known political cameos in Dynasty (1981-89). In the soap, while characters Blake and Krystal Carrington attended the Carousel ball in Denver, the couple swapped pleasantries with “Special Guest Stars” former President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty.
Later in the episode, my dad chuckled at Joan Collins as Alexis in her short flirty scene with the Former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. On his recognising Alexis, she says to him – in the way only Ms Collins could deliver – “I haven’t seen you since Portofino. It was fun.”
Onto the review. Dave Kovic is an ordinary man, and more approachable and down to earth and infectiously humorous. He is working for a company that helps others find temporary employment. Kovic also has a sideline job where he impersonates the President opening garages and the like. After one such job, he returns home to find Duane Stevenson from the Secret Service (Ving Rhames) and an aide in his front room.
Kovic is asked if he can appear as the President temporarily at a public function he has to attend. Kovic is briefed on how he should act during this “performance”. Kovic is briefly vetted by the President who then leaves the function approving of his stand-in, then flippantly saying he can only be contacted if war breaks out. Dave then performs as the President, appearing initially overawed then on becoming more confident shouting an unprompted, enthusiastic “God Bless America” to the function attendees.
President Mitchell is meanwhile getting down to his extra-marital business with his secretary, a pretty blonde played by Laura Linney. As they are making love, the President collapses into a coma from a severe stroke. Meanwhile, Kovic is quickly returned to the White House. There he is met by Bob Alexander (Frank Langella) the White House Chief of Staff and Alan Reed (Kevin Dunn), a Communications Officer.
Both men are denying the gravity of the President’s health to the Press, reporting it as a mild stroke that occurred at a political meeting. The pair convince Dave – with Alexander appearing more fearsome and bully-like, Reed using more friendly compassionate tactics – to “act” as President.
Alexander dismisses the Vice President as mentally unstable and not fit for office, with the cunning Chief of Staff aiming to frame him for a misdemeanour in the Press. Bob hopes to replace the Vice President, an honest man. Meanwhile, the real President is cared for in the basement by care staff and is seen to be in a critical condition.
Dave then meets his “wife”, the First Lady Ellen Mitchell – who is not told of Dave’s stand-in role as the President – she makes no secret of her contempt for her husband. The pair are living separate lives and put on a united front in public. Kovic is then used as a puppet President with Alexander pulling his strings and is briefed on this new role and responsibilities.
Then it’s a spot the cameos montage as a number of well-known faces – both from television, film and political comment on the apparent new lease of life the President is showing. Dave begins to feel attracted to the First Lady. Together they are to attend a homeless children’s resident unit. On the way there in the Presidential car, he notices her underskirt and she catches him doing this.
At the unit, Dave’s more caring personality comes out in his actions and words, and despite him still, in his presidential role, this leads to a moment of warmth between him and the First Lady. However, she challenges him about his hypocrisy as he is not funding the project, while he is in the shower.
As Dave, he then breaks free of his puppet mode – enraging Bob – requesting the help of his account friend Murray (Charles Grodin). Dave then as President Mitchell makes appropriate changes in the White House Budget with his government to fund the unit.
This gains more brownie points from the First Lady. She slips in to see him that evening, and in conversation, he agrees with her about something that didn’t happen. She casually asks him who he is as she now knows he is not her husband or the President… But I’ll let you discover the rest of the film, and this along with the actor playing the Vice President.
Kline is convincing in both roles and made President Mitchell an instantly despicable character on meeting him as much as Kline’s real-life doppelgänger Patrick Bergin was in Sleeping with the Enemy (1991). As Dave,
Bergin Kline showed a down to earth, instantly likeable character.
It was nice to see the contrast with both his Kovic and Presidential characters in scenes with Weaver, who on viewing appeared more hostile in the scenes with the President compared with the easy rapport, chemistry and instant trust she felt when she and Kovic “met” despite the obvious physical similarities.
Sigourney Weaver was a lovely, classy and elegant first lady and it was nice to see her in this role. Langella totally convinced me as Alexander in his cunning and devious role. He was almost so frightening and villainous, you wished for his comeuppance as much as you hoped for a romance for Kovic and the First Lady.
However, at times Alexander was more amusing and almost like a pantomime villain as he stomped his way around the White House when things didn’t go his way. Charles Grodin had only a small part, as did Ving Rhames. It would have been nice to see a bit more of Dave’s relationship with them both.
This is a lovely feel good, well written romantic comedy. The romance in this film feels more realistic and less contrived than that seen in other Presidential romantic comedies of this time such as The American President (1995).
The comedy is fun and engaging and the characters are well written. Having seen Dave’s passion when fighting for the better good with his colleagues, his easy rapport with the man on the street and in his political agenda expressed in down to earth speeches based on pure and simple common sense… Dave Kovic easily gets my vote as President.
Weeper Rating:😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: /10
Hulk Rating: /10
This was submitted to the Hail to the Chief Blogathon run by Pop Culture Reverie. Other reviews with this cast include Sigourney Weaver in Galaxy Quest. Kevin Kline stars in The Big Chill and Soapdish. Charles Grodin stars in Heaven Can Wait and he is remembered here in The Heartbreak Kid. Laura Linney stars in Love Actually.