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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dave is a charming political comedy about a regular guy (Kevin Kline) who ends up impersonating the president of the United States when the latter experiences an unexpected (and scandalous) health crisis. Dave isn't perfect -- he willingly participates in the deception at the heart of the movie and does a few other iffy things along the way -- but his big heart shines through, and he ends up improving the lives of his fellow Americans while he's "in office." Some of the movie's political satire and power struggles might go over younger kids' head, especially since politics have changed somewhat since the film was made. But it has strong themes of compassion and integrity, as well as some big laughs and a sweet romance between the jaded first lady (Sigourney Weaver) and the idealistic Dave. Expect some swearing throughout (including "s--t" and one use of "f--k") and some partial nudity. Dave's naked chest and backside are shown in the shower, and a couple has sex under the covers, but nothing sensitive is shown.
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What's the story?
In DAVE, Kevin Kline stars in dual roles as President Bill Mitchell and a temp agency owner named Dave Kovic. When the president has a massive stroke that leaves him in a vegetative state, his chief of staff, Bob Alexander (Frank Langella), convinces Dave to play the part. Whereas President Mitchell was corrupt and nasty, with a well-crafted political facade, Dave genuinely cares and wants to help people. This leads him to lock horns with Alexander, whose real agenda is to implicate the vice president in a scandal and have "President Dave" nominate Alexander as the new VP just before pretending to have a second, fatal stroke. Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver) is the estranged first lady who enjoys using her role to be of service to the needy, despite the lack of love in her marriage. She eventually catches on to the scheme, and, with her help, Dave is able to set things right (and the two of them even find romance along the way).
Is it any good?
This uplifting movie plays to the fantasy of the Everyman or Everywoman who thinks they could make a real difference in this country, if only they had the chance. It's a truly heartfelt film that manages to combine sweet romance with political satire. Older viewers will appreciate the subtle jabs at notable political figures, but you don't need to be familiar with '90s politics to enjoy the wit and warmth here. If you're looking for a funny, romantic take on politics, Dave is definitely worth a watch.
That said, Kline plays Dave with such simplicity that he brings to mind Wilbur Post from TV's Mr. Ed. And when Ben Kingsley, who plays Vice President Nance, shows up toward the end of the film, he adds a depth and presence that almost make him (or everyone else) appear to be in the wrong movie. And the politics represented in the movie can seem oversimplified. Everything works out very tidily, which leaves threads and nuances missing from the storyline. But, then again, that's sort of the point. The situation Dave gets himself into might not be realistic, but the idea of a political outsider shaking up Washington still resonates with today's viewers. Dave's whole message when he revises the budget is that some basic decency and common sense could go a long way in government.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they'd do in Dave's situation. What would you do differently than the current president, and what would you do the same?
Who's your favorite president in history? Why? What do you think makes a strong leader?
With elections and political news more visible than ever, what role do political scandals have in the election process? What are some of the ways that people hold their representatives accountable?
- In theaters: May 7, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: April 28, 1998
- Cast: Ben Kingsley, Charles Grodin, Frank Langella, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Sigourney Weaver, Ving Rhames
- Director: Ivan Reitman
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Comedy
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Integrity
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mild swearing and some nudity
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