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Dave, Kline mine the comic gold of presidential politics


Directed by Ivan Reitman.

Written by Gary Ross.

Starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver.

Loews Cheri, Loews Janus.

By Douglas D. Keller

Staff Reporter

Judging by the fact that I can't get a hold of an Athena terminal to check my e-mail it seems plausible that many of you have missed the hype over the "best comedy of the season" -- Dave. Kevin Kline stars as both Bill Mitchell, the 44th president of the United States, and Bill Kovic, the man hired to impersonate him after a speech. Kovic is a dead-ringer for Mitchell in terms of physical appearance but the two are worlds apart in terms of philosophy. Mitchell is the consummate slimy politician who takes bribes and looks for ways to screw over the little man while making his advisers "look like pricks." Kovic runs an employment agency for the hapless and impersonates the president on the side at car dealerships and county fairs.

Kovic's shtick attracts the attention of Secret Service officer Duane Stevenson, played by the unflappable and mountainous Ving Rhames, who hires him to impersonate Mitchell leaving a hotel after a speech so that Mitchell can stay upstairs and fornicate with one of his secretaries. After Mitchell suffers an incapacitating stroke `during the act,' Chief of Staff Bob Alexander, evilly played by Frank Langella, decides to keep Kovic on to impersonate Mitchell. Alexander plans to get rid of Vice President Nance (Ben Kingsley), have Kovic name him vice president, and then get rid of Kovic and assume the presidency.

In order for this movie to be enjoyable, the audience must be willing to handle a large suspension of disbelief. If this is not a problem for you (for instance, if you bought the premises of Indecent Proposal or The Bodyguard) or you're willing to try, then Dave is a very entertaining movie. Writer Gary Ross has taken the basic plot of Moon Over Parador, added the wholesome American dream of Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and spiced the amalgam with political insights gained as a Capitol Hill intern and speech writer for Michael Dukakis. What results is a slightly left wing indictment of national politics with biting political satire, slapstick comedy, intrigue, and compassion for the little man.

Kevin Kline does a superb job playing the alter egos of Kovic and Mitchell. Kline is able to restrain and channel the comic power he had in A Fish Called Wanda into the role of a presidential impersonator who wants to help the common man. Sigourney Weaver plays Mitchell's estranged wife Ellen, whose only reason for staying with the man and forgoing children was the belief that she could somehow manage to help the poor, the homeless, the abandoned children. Weaver plays Ellen with control and conviction, and yes, with hair (for all of you who remember Weaver's last role). Dave and Ellen are obviously perfect for each other and eventually set out to right the wrongs of the Mitchell administration.

Director Ivan Reitman manages to keep the improbable plot light and believable by exploiting the seam of comic gold that presidential politics afford. There are more than a few surprises and a truckload full of comic bits that help make Dave an enjoyable film