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Comedy about two high school girls who wander off during a class trip to the White House and meet President Richard Nixon. They become the official dog walkers for Nixon's dog Checkers, and become his secret advisors during the Watergate scandal. Written by
Betsy and Arlene Meet the Leader of the Free World
A good movie that deals with a significant event in history can be educational as well as entertaining; film is a powerful medium that can put a fresh perspective on why the world today is as it is, and a movie that does all of that can be a satisfying and memorable experience. And `Dick,' directed by Andrew Fleming, is a satisfying and memorable film that unequivocally does NOT do any of those things. Because it's too busy doing exactly what it was intended to do: Make you laugh. It's a hilarious comedy about the Nixon White House and the Watergate affair that finally answers the questions everyone has been asking since Nixon declared he wasn't a crook. Like what really happened at the Watergate that night and who alerted the authorities about the break-in? Who was `Deep throat,' and why did he use that name? Where did Nixon come up with the idea to flash his famous `Victory' sign? And what was really on that eighteen-and-a-half minutes of tape that got erased?
Kirsten Dunst is Betsy Jobs, a normal, everyday teenager whose best friend, Arlene Lorenzo (Michelle Williams), just happens to live at the Watergate. One night at Arlene's place, the girls are frantically working to finish an essay for Arlene to enter in a `Win a date with Bobby Sherman' contest; this is important stuff-- Arlene just HAS to win, but her entry has to be in the mailbox by midnight. They manage to finish in time and rush out to the mailbox, but as they're hurrying down the stairs and into the parking garage, they inadvertently do and then see something that ultimately-- and history buffs take note!-- has a significant impact on the Nixon administration, and consequently on the course of history. But for Betsy and Arlene, it's only the beginning of their personal involvement with the leader of the free world. And all this time later, who knew?
What makes this movie so good is that it's clever without having to force itself on you; the humor is subtle without being too deep, which makes it accessible to just about everyone, as well as enjoyable. You don't have to think too hard to get it, and it doesn't assault you with slapstick, silliness or the grossness that defines so many comedies involving teens today. There's even a parody of Woodward and Bernstein (Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch) that works well, and though it's not among the film's most memorable moments, it is funny.
What is memorable about this movie is Dunst and Williams, and especially Dan Hedaya, whose take on Richard Nixon is a dead-on riot. He's got the body language and the mannerisms down pat, and it's a hoot. And the girls are endearingly frivolous; they've got the looks, the attitude and the spirit of everything Teen, to which they bring a carefree depth to their perception of the world and their place in it, kind of like a younger version of Romy and Michele with the freshness of youth and their whole lives ahead of them.
This is a comedy that will appeal to a wide audience and transcend demographics because it's a multi-generational, nonpartisan, funny film. Teens will identify with Betsy and Arlene regardless of the context, and everyone else will be able to relate to the politics and the era on any number of levels. What's important is that it's presented in a light-hearted way, without malice and with the sole purpose of giving you a good time and a lot of laughs (which it certainly does). And it's good clean fun; parents can watch this one with the kids without any fear of embarrassment, and on the other hand, you can take your grandmother to see it, as well.
The supporting cast includes Teri Garr (Helen Lorenzo), Dave Foley (Bob Haldeman), Jim Breuer (John Dean), Ana Gasteyer (Rose Mary Woods), Harry Shearer (G. Gordon Liddy), Saul Rubinek (doing a right-on Henry Kissinger), G.D. Spradlin (Ben Bradlee) and Devon Gummersall (Larry). An uplifting movie with some bona fide laugh-out-loud moments, `Dick' gives a skewing to a serious event and time, but it does it with reverence, respect and good taste, and it emerges as something of a paean to eternal youth and the indomitability of the human spirit in the face of an ever-changing world. In the end, this is a film that will make your heart light and put a smile on your face. And that, without a doubt, is the magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.
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