Ya know. Sometimes you just want a movie that makes you feel good. A movie that makes hope spring – if not eternal – at least for an hour or two. And that’s what the movie “Dave” does. It stars Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver in one of the most unlikely scenarios you’ll ever love to believe. I’ve watched it several times and just watched it again.
Dave (Kevin Kline) is just an ordinary guy who has one driving ambition. He wants to get jobs for people. He runs a little temporary employment agency that is staffed with people who are motivated. They want to give people who are down on their luck a fighting chance. A chance to get back some dignity and self-respect as well as a paycheck. And Dave will get a job for someone if he has to use a shoe horn to get them a foothold, or strong-arm personal friends who already have too many employees. And everybody loves Dave. How could they not?
But ordinary Dave has one extraordinary talent. He looks just like the President of the United States. He can pitch his voice the same, and imitate his mannerisms. So as a side job, Dave does marketing promotions doing impersonations of the President. So when the real President, Bill Mitchell, (Kevin Kline) a scumbag of the lowest order, needs a stand-in for a few hours, Secret Service Agent Duane Stevenson (Ving Rhames) hires Dave to do the job. Stevenson is the epitome of the Secret Service strong, silent observer, no flicker of emotion or opinion to mar his granite face. His job is to protect and defend. His opinion of those he protects, and the secrets he keeps, are locked away behind that impenetrable facade.
When the real President suffers a stroke, the powers that be, White House Chief of Staff Bob Alexander (Frank Langella), and Communications Director Alan Reed (Kevin Dunn), decide it is not in the nation’s best interest (or their own) to let anyone know — except, of course, the medical staff who are sequestered with their immobile, comatose patient in a secret facility. Dave is ordered to continue his charade, with one proviso — to keep his mouth shut except to speak carefully worded scripts. Secret Service Agent Duane Stevenson is the only other in the “Need To Know”.
Dave is not let in on the secret of why he is having to “play” president for so long. At first, Dave is kept out of the public eye. The story is that the President has suffered a minor health problem and is resting a few days. In the meantime, Dave is told that Vice-President Gary Nance (Ben Kingsley) is mentally ill and needs to be kept away from any important national decisions. In this vein, Alexander and Reed send Nance on a good will tour of Africa.
Dave is soon to find that all is not well with the State of the Union. And that there are unscrupulous men willing to subvert anything good for their own good. He also finds that the President and First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver), no longer live as man and wife, and, in fact, she loathes her husband, not only as a man but as the most powerful one on earth. Puppetmaster Bob Alexander tries to make sure that the fake president and the real First Lady see very little of each other.
Of course, fate intervenes. Not only is Dave smarter than the average puppet, but Ellen Mitchell isn’t buying the fact that her husband has become a “kinder, gentler” human being overnight just because he supposedly had a brush with mortality.
So the fate of the nation lies not in the hands of an unscrupulous man who was voted into power, but in the heart of a gentle man who naively believes in the power of good. And knowing that his life lies in the hands of a Secret Service agent who knows the truth of Dave’s living lie, he asks Stevenson the vital question – “Since it’s your job to take a bullet for the President if need be — does that mean you would be willing to take a bullet for me”?
That answer lies only in the silence of the agent whose opinion of the most powerful man on earth is kept close to his Kevlar vest, and his lips are sealed until time and circumstance release the truth that rises to a soft but powerful conclusion.
Dave is a movie well worth watching. More than once.