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Dave is a 1993 film directed by Ivan Reitman. More or less, it's The Prisoner of Zendaupdated to the modern-day United States.The President of the United States is Bill Mitchell (Kevin Kline), a corrupt career politician who works closely with his equally corrupt advisors, especially Chief of Staff Bob Alexander (Frank Langella). Meanwhile, Dave Kovic (also Kline) is a Nice GuyEveryman who happens to look exactly like the President, and has a side job impersonating him at parties. One day, Dave is hired as a Body Double in an effort to cover up one of Mitchell's extramarital affairs. After the President unexpectedly falls into a coma while having sex with his mistress, Alexander refuses to give up his power and invents an outrageous conspiracy: place Dave in the Oval Office and pretend the coma never happened! Alexander assumes that Dave will be an easily manipulated puppet, but what happens when Dave starts Becoming the Mask?The rest of the main cast includes Sigourney Weaver as the socially conscious First Lady, Kevin Dunn as another advisor in on the conspiracy, and Ving Rhames as a Secret Service agent.
This movie provides examples of:
Adam Westing: Oliver Stone and Jay Leno are happy to have a laugh at their own expense.
Becoming the Mask: In terms of assuming his position as President. Fortunately, he doesn't become the Jerkass the real President Mitchell was, though his performance does redeem his character.
After Dave meets the first lady for the first time and says, "She hates me..." Bob Alexander and Alan Reed simultaneously respond with a Big Yes.
Bob Alexander, when Dave admits in front of Congress that President Mitchell had been involved in a savings and loan scandal. He changes his tune moments later when Dave produces evidence that he was involved as well.
Black and White Morality: Political morality is pretty straightforward in this film. Dave, Ellen, and Nance are Good. Mitchell and Alexander are Evil. Alan Reed starts off Evil and turns Good. It's not any more complicated than that. Perhaps it doesn't need to be in a feel-good movie like this.
Chekhov's Gunman: Dave's friend Murray, who runs an accounting office where Dave frequently finds temp jobs for his clients. he gets called to the White House for, of all things, balancing the federal budget.
Collapsed Mid Speech: Dave invokes this. He gives a big speech to Congress, then stutters, stumbles and collapses just after the important confession part, supposedly with a stroke so they can switch the real president back in.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: At first Dave is very silly and doesn't appear to be very serious about being the fake president, just like his puppeteers want him to be. Then he starts actually working to help the nation, and becomes the better president.
Death Glare: Bo Alexander is the master of these, especially when Dave starts going off-script.
Dysfunctional Marriage: This is the reason why the Manipulative Bastard dares to pull this off - the real president and his wife are so estranged that they barely talk anymore to each other. Unfortunately, no one counted on Dave being a much better match for Mrs. Mitchell than her husband...
Earpiece Conversation: Dave is coached through two conversations by his handlers and mistakes their stage instructions for his next line both times.
Gilligan Cut: At Alexander's house, where he watches "President Mitchell's" speech with supporters all ready to start gearing up for Alexander's own presidential run. He gets really cocky when Dave admits to Mitchell's involvement, celebrating the set-up to his own run. Dave then reveals that Alexander was also involved and just as guilty. When they cut again to Alexander, mere seconds later, he's been completely abandoned.
Happy Marriage Charade: The real President Mitchell and Ellen pretended to be loving couple for the cameras, while hating each other in private.
The Chief of Staff aims to manipulate Dave into following his own agenda, which will end with him being President. Unfortunately, he doesn't count on Dave both rebelling against his agenda and realizing that so far as everyone is concerned, Dave is the President.
Later, after being fired, he tries to impeach the President by revealing his role in a savings and loan fraud. Dave admits "his" involvement, but manages to procure evidence that Alexander was also involved. Everyone deserts Alexander.
Alexander himself is a pretty nasty piece of work, even without his corruption and subversion of the political process, explicitly stating at one point he is more interested in his own agenda than with helping underprivileged people.
Large Ham: Frank Langella as the scheming Chief of Staff, but being a Capra-esque film, it comes with the territory, and Langella gleefully chews the scenery.
Leno Device: Leno appears to talk about the President's new attitude change, asking out loud if he's been overdosing on Happy Meals.
Meaningful Name: Mitchell's full name is William Harrison Mitchell, and the screenwriters have confirmed that he was named after William Henry Harrison. Who, by the way, was the first American President to die in office.
Next Sunday A.D.: When Nance is sworn in at the end of the film, he's referred to as the forty-fifth president, making Mitchell the forty-fourth president. Thus, extrapolating fictional presidencies from the time when the film was made, the story takes place in the year 2000 at the earliest and 2016 at the latest. Nevertheless, the political cameos firmly place it in The Nineties. Incidentally, Barack Obama is the real forty-fourth president.
Oh, Crap: Bob Alexander when Dave produces evidence at the end that he was involved in the savings and loan scandal as well. He's basically reduced to staring at his television in horrified slack-jawed catatonia.
One Steve Limit: Averted when Dave meets the little boy David at the homeless shelter.
Out-of-Character Alert: The First Lady first gets suspicious of Dave when she catches him checking her legs out, since the real President stopped years ago.
Out with a Bang: Kind of. President Mitchell has a stroke and falls into a coma while having sex. He doesn't actually die until later.
The Puppet Cuts His Strings: Dave realizes that he can use Mitchell's office to push his own agenda of helping the disenfranchised. The moment he cuts his strings is very clear, as he faces down Alexander in front of a budget committee he should never have convened.
Puppet King: Dave was chosen as a placeholder until the conspirators could get the Vice-President out of the way. Despite effectively having the office of President, he was expected to do nothing more than keep up the appearance that Mitchell was active.
Twenty Fifth Amendment: The villains' whole plot is a Zany Scheme to illegally sidestep the twenty-fifth amendment, and prevent the ascension of the Vice-President. Their plan would have culminated with Dave being bumped off and Alexander becoming president, but they don't get that far.
Undying Loyalty: Stevensen pledges this to Dave, confessing "I'd have taken a bullet for you," just before Dave makes his exit. At the end of the film he's working for Dave's city council campaign.
Vice President Who: Played with. Vice President Nance is introduced somewhat ridiculously, holding a spear and carrying a ceremonial headdress and beads that he received on his African goodwill tour. He is also being set up as the fall guy for a scandal that threatens the Mitchell White House. However it quickly becomes apparent that Nance is easily the most decent and honorable member of the Mitchell administration.
What the Hell, Hero?: Several are directed at Dave, not realizing that the actions in question are the doings of Bob Alexander and that Dave's really innocent.
Whole Plot Reference: The plot is essentially an adaptation of The Prisoner of Zenda (a close physical double of a national leader stands in when the real leader is incapacitated, and ends up being both a better leader and a better person all round, falling for the leader's wife in the process), only modernized and stripped of most of the "swashbuckling adventure story" aspects. It also qualifies for a Prince and Pauper plot. An earlier Richard Dreyfuss movie, Moon over Parador, follows the same plot.