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DVD Review: Dave

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I love scenes where actors eat. There’s a great scene in Dave with Sigourney Weaver eating a sandwich. Great stuff.

It occurred to me, while watching the film, that, while it’s still cute, it’s already a relic and it’s only 12 years old. The idea of a person wanting to be President in order to help other people, to help the less fortunate. It isn’t just that Bush is a nitwit, ass clown, he’s also viciously unkind to the very idea of helping people. At the end of Dave, when the pseudo-Capra moments filled me, altruism filled me and I wanted to be President. The sensation lasted a second or two, which is the longest it’s lasted… probably since the last time I saw Dave, or maybe when I saw Waking the Dead or something. I love how movies about politicians have to be set in the past. Except The West Wing, but that’s not a movie and I don’t watch it anymore, anyway.

Then reality caught up. While Kevin Kline is great throughout the film, Gary Ross’s screenplay wastes the first half, barely featuring the best parts of the film: Kline and Weaver’s relationship, Kline and Ving Rhames’ relationship, and Kline and Charles Grodin’s relationship. Wow, do I ever miss Charles Grodin. Watching him almost made me want to try watching The Heartbreak Kid again, then my senses returned. The whole film is perfectly cast, but the front section is too heavy with Frank Langella’s villain. Langella’s great, but that’s not where the film is meatiest. Dave’s at its best when Weaver’s around. Her scenes let the audience connect with the incredible situation (so do some of Rhames’, but not as many) and let the film approach real poignancy.

It’s impossible to make a Capra film today, the hopefulness of the 1930s is long gone. As a filmgoing audience, we expect people in small towns to burn crosses on lawns more than bake each other bean pies. Dave‘s not willing to identify its President’s party (so you have to guess) and it hides its politics, which aren’t silly and which are important–then eschews them for a gimmicky ending. But the gimmicky ending doesn’t even hurt it–the last scene is wonderful, actually–because the film refuses to let itself be taken too seriously… just enough so no one calls it insincere. But it’s that Hollywood sincere and Hollywood doesn’t know how to do good sincere anymore.

As for the quality of the DVD, I watched Warner’s DVD from 1998, which is anamorphic, but could really use a remaster.
Ed: JH

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About Andrew Wickliffe

  • Hollywood already made a movie about the W. Bush presidency, it’s called “Being There”

  • Baronius

    I really liked this film too, but I found its politics heavy-handed.

    Then, when I started thinking about it, I realized that the “good guys” were horrible. They took over the government, established new policies, then turned the government over to the VP who promised to carry them out. The “bad guys”, to be sure, had tried to do the same thing, except leaving the policies intact.

    What ultimately bothered me about the movie is reflected in your comments. Dave, the hero, was trying to do something good, so it was okay that he defrauded the nation. All that having been said, I enjoyed the movie and thought that Kevin Kline gave a great performance.

  • Hollywood already made a movie about the W. Bush presidency, it’s called “Being There”

    Best comment ever.

  • Absolutely a classic Kevin Kline role. One of my two favorites, the other being Otto from Fish Called Wanda. That was some of the best comedic character acting in history!

    I have Dave somewhere on VHS somewhere. It’s kinda sad, I don’t have a VHS anymore. I found the DVD so profoundly better in quality and ease of use I ditched all analog.