Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Frank Langella
Kline, a lighter-than-air performer, seems to have been converted into pure helium in this political comedy. He plays a temp-agency owner who happens to be the exact double of the current President, a sour old Yalie named Mitchell (Kline again, of course, looking startlingly like George Bush). In a President-and-the-pauper sort of twist, Mitchell suffers a massive stroke while having sex with a woman who is young, blond and decidedly not the First Lady; Langella, his power-obsessed chief of staff, recruits Kline to fill in. In his brief scenes as the real President, Kline is funny and unnervingly edgy; as the fake President, he is funny and flakily charming, unable to resist camping it up during the endless photo ops.
If only the movie, written by Gary Ross and directed with a Clintonian smoothness by Ivan Reitman, remained as buoyant as its star. As Kline begins to take his presidential duties seriously, the comedy seeps out, a listless civic-mindedness drifts in like fog off the Potomac, and you may find yourself wishing President Mitchell would wake up. As the First Lady, Weaver, who can be very funny with the right material, is a majestic presence—but couldn’t someone have given her a couple of good jokes? And Kingsley, who as the Vice President doesn’t show up until the movie is nearly over, turns out to be a limp, sad little fellow. He seems to be playing a lost mitten in a grade-school play.
Perhaps Reitman devoted too much effort to lining up Dave’s vast gallery of celebrity cameos—everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who gives a speech on fitness, to Tip O’Neill, John McLaughlin, National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg and Oliver Stone, who gets the movie’s single best gag. (PG-13)