Ah hell, that Hero Shot probably is too much, but so what? Look, “A Man Watches A Movie And He Must Admit He Is……yada, yada” and I re-watched “Dave” for the first time in a long time in advance of America’s second Presidential debate when a Vulgar Talking Yam (coinage: Charles Pierce) turned the proceedings into a shameless circus where the three rings were occupied by his narcissism, paranoia and crudeness. Therefore I was ripe for Ivan Reitman’s (over)dose of All-American sentimentality and conspicuous exercise in civics.
Reitman’s film could have been a simple comedy, an ordinary
So Dave becomes a polite warrior, battling Bob and outfoxing him, enlisting his accountant pal (Charles Grodin, whose harried dishevelment is hilarious) and the isolated first lady in his cause to oust the corrupt chief of staff and get the Vice President (Ben Kingsley) into the Oval Office instead. This battle is admittedly simplistic. I mean, if only a little addition and subtraction on a legal pad really could completely re-arrange the budget and turn this country around, and Dave’s promise to put into effect a vague plan that will provide a job for every American is less Hillary than Trump, a slogan told in buzzwords. The closest the film gets to any kind of complexity is in the performance of Kevin Dunn as Alan Reed, the communications director, who allays himself with Bob, even as Dunn allows hints of guilt to quietly emerge before his resistance blooms in full and he takes a stand, the most moving moment in the picture because it feels like the most earned.
Still, even for the hoariness of the themes, there is simultaneously a welcoming professionalism to the screenplay, penned by Gary Ross, in the way that it skillfully builds set-ups and payoffs and carves out personality for even minor characters, like Ving Rhames’s dutiful secret service agent, who, as it happens, gets perhaps the best set-up and payoff in the film. And I could not help but note the irony of that efficiency manifesting itself in a film about the inner-workings of Washington, where the political system can seem so gummed up, so broken down, so absent new parts. If “Dave” is totally telegraphed, you still can’t help but admire its solid construction.