As much as we rightly cherish Frank Capra films like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Meet John Doe,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” for defending ordinary people who confront indecent American politicians and wealthy individuals. in their battle to make the world a better place, “Dave” is one of the few mainstream political comedies made in the same mold that I can easily think of in the past 30 or so years. It’s also a very funny film that’s full of interesting quotes and little moments of character-driven humor – like when nonsense Stevenson admits to Dave that he’s not safe wearing sweaters because he worries they’ll make his neck too thick — scripted by Gary Ross (“Big,” “Pleasantville,” “The Hunger Games”). “Dave” was also well served by Reitman’s consistent direction, using edits when needed to keep the pace going while pausing to allow the more dramatic scenes to breathe. Plus, it’s a movie that cinematographer Adam Greenberg (the first two “Terminator” movies) shot in not-flashy but crisp compositions, reminding everyone that comedies can be as polished and “cinematic” as any other type of film.
And let’s not forget the cast! Kline is as charming as he’s ever been as the lead character in “Dave” (suffice it to say, that movie was largely responsible for my crush on him), as is Rhames as straight man of his whimsical hero. Equally brilliant: Charles Grodin as Dave’s typically exasperated pal, Murray Blum – whose cynicism melts so much when his friend needs his help for a good cause – and Sigourney Weaver as progressive first lady Ellen Mitchell, who quickly realizes that something is wrong when Dave replaces her ex-husband and she soon begins to fall in love with his “replacement”. For those who haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t worry, Dave never takes advantage of Ellen’s privacy or trust by impersonating Bill Mitchell. Quite the contrary, the movie subverts this problematic comedy trope at one point by having Ellen angrily barge at a naked Dave (while he’s taking a shower) to berate him for what was really one of the despicable and devious acts of Bob.
Speaking of Bob, Langella has an absolute field day playing the unscrupulous, power-hungry politician. As dark as it is funny when Bob, furious after Dave went behind his back to cut the federal budget and fund an Ellen-backed homeless shelter program, says “I’m going to kill him… This isn’t He’s not a president. He’s an ordinary person. I can kill an ordinary person,” it works because you believe Langella absolutely means it.