Dave is able to hold up so well 25 years after it’s release because of such a strong performance by Kevin Kline.
Ivan Reitman followed his 1980s successes by directing the political comedy from Gary Ross’ hilariously written screenplay. There are so few political comedies that can work in a way that the script does. Could the Oscar-nominated screenplay be written today and still appeal to movie going audiences? I’d like to think so. A special 35mm screening was held this afternoon at the Music Box Theater and a decent-sized crowd turned out in advance of May’s 25th anniversary.
Dave Kovic (Kline) is a nice guy. He runs a temporary employment agency as does the best that he can in order to find jobs for people who need them. When he’s not running his agency, he’s impersonating President Bill Mitchell. When President Mitchell requests a person that looks similar to stand in for him at an upcoming event, Secret Service agent Duane Stevensen is sent out to scout and recruits Kovic.
While cheating on his wife at the hotel, Mitchell suffers from a massive stroke. It’s at this point when the president’s Chief of Staff Robert “Bob” Alexander (Frank Langella) and White House Communications Director Alan Reed (Kevin Dunn) convince the impersonator to continue doing the job. Bob has his own agenda with Vice President Gary Nance (Ben Kingsley) off an a tour–his plan is to force Nance to step down and get Dave to nominate him. The former Senator wants more power and he isn’t afraid of getting people out of the way in the process.
While all of this is going on, First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver) notices the change in the president’s behavior and it’s never more noticeable than when they are visiting a homeless shelter. She’d been out of love with her husband for a few years and with his change in behavior, she has to have figured out that this isn’t the same man she married. Upon learning about the switch, the chemistry between the two starts to build. It’s only after this moment in which Weaver’s role becomes a fully-developed and not a wasted character.
It wouldn’t be a political film without a ton of cameos including both politicians and television personalities. The craziest one was Oliver Stone claiming that the president was replaced. Nobody would probably believe him but he wasn’t that far off from the truth. Among the other cameos include one by a future Californian governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The film holds up really well nearly 25 years later much thanks to a strong performance from actor Kevin Kline in the duel roles of civilian Dave Kovic and President Bill Mitchell. Frank Langella plays the role of Bob Alexander with such a dramatic feeling to it. It’s as if he came onto the set expecting a drama but nobody told him he was in a comedy movie. The interplay between him, Alan Reed, and Dave is just one of the reasons why the comedy works so well.
Paying an homage to the prior work of the great Frank Capra, Dave offers a fresh contemporary take on a classic trope. It’s the wonderful characters that make the film what it is and why it’s such a classic some 25 years later.
DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman
SCREENWRITER: Gary Ross
CAST: Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin, and Ben Kingsley
Warner Brothers Pictures released Dave in theaters on May 7, 1993.