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Bill Mitchell is the philandering and distant President of the United States. Dave Kovic is a sweet-natured and caring Temp Agency operator, who by a staggering coincidence looks exactly like the President. As such, when Mitchell wants to escape an official luncheon, the Secret Service hires Dave to stand in for him. Unfortunately, Mitchell suffers a severe stroke whilst having sex with one of his aides, and Dave finds himself stuck in the role indefinitely. The corrupt and manipulative Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander, plans to use Dave to elevate himself to the White House - but unfortunately, he doesn't count on Dave enjoying himself in office, using his luck to make the country a better place, and falling in love with the beautiful First Lady... Written by
Scott Nisbet <email@example.com>
Politically naïve and a bit thin but it is amusing, well played light film that will give you a temporary warm feeling inside
Dave Kovic is a small town guy friendly, hard working and on the side of the downtrodden. He is also a dead ringer for President Bill Mitchell. So when the President is keen to get away for a night of passion with his secretary, Dave is paid to be a silent stand in at a minor walk & shake event. However, when Mitchell suffers a stroke and is incapacitated, his advisors refuse to relinquish control to the Vice President and instead install Dave as the full time temporary replacement. Despite initial nerves, Dave takes to the public side of the job his easy natural winning over the public and his change from a dour president to a man of the people is put down to the stroke. But with time in the job, Dave realises the problems in the government and Bill's marriage and resolves to change it, despite the internal resistance he is met with.
With the recent cinematic attacks on Bush's Government over Iraq (Control Room, F9/11 and others), Bush must be wishing that he was being given the light touch that Hollywood gave to Bill Clinton at the time. The American President and Dave were bought light comedies with only very mild comment on the nature of government so mild that they would barely even count as a cross word in comparison to the full on attacks on Bush! Regardless of the politics of Hollywood, few people would have come to this film looking for anything in the way of social or political comment but rather a rather cosy comedy with the usual liberal idealism (we would all like to think we would change things for the better if we got in power but the realities of the world mean few can in any significant way). In this regard the film is relatively smug and cosy affair that is fun to watch but utterly naïve at the same time!
The plot never gets close to the mix of comedy and comment that West Wing (in its day) had but it never really tries to. If anything the film is like very light wish fulfilment. We wish we had politicians like Dave even those with opposing beliefs would admire a man who was upright, honest, open and responsible but, regardless of who is in charge when you watch this movie, it will only ever be wish fulfilment and the warm feeling you might have when you finish the movie will last only as long as it takes for the news to come on afterwards. Despite this it does work as a comedy with a (and I shudder to use this overused phrase) Capraesque sense of America to it; many will hate it for this very reason but I found it to be a pleasantly distracting affair even if I never really bought it as a serious piece and fully acknowledge that it was a rather naïve piece of fluff!
The cast is very good and contains good names in relaxed mode but still turning out suitable performances for the material. Kline is pretty good and makes for an enjoyable character as Dave he puts on his best Jimmy Stewart personae and matches the material for every idealistic point. This is not a criticism of Kline but a compliment, he did what the material required and he made it better and easier to watch by his performance. Weaver has less to do and less fun is had; she is an important part of the story and she does 'melt' well as the film progresses but she is an aside, only necessary to provide romance and some drive at key moments. Langella is good value in a role that represent modern politics well and Dunn floats around well enough. Rhames' subsequent fame makes his small role seem strange but he does well with what he is given. Kingsley and Grodin are very enjoyable in their roles for different reasons and again it is strange to see Linney in a very small role given her later fame. The film is packed with cameos from politics and Hollywood, although the non-US viewer will struggle to recognise many of the congressmen etc (in fact, could US viewers name these people) but the standout cameo of the film goes to Oliver Stone who, in the film's funniest moment, allows his famous paranoia/conspiracy theory reputation to be lampooned on Larry King!
Overall this is a politically naïve, rather preachy bit of liberal wish fulfilment but to leave it at that is to miss the point of the film. While it is this, it is also an amusing little comedy that delivers a warm glow as we see the story of Dave a politician the like of which we will probably never see outside of a cinema. Enjoy it for what it is, have a warm fuzzy feeling for a bit, then forget it for the thin comedy that it is.
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