Sweet natured, warm hearted, funny, a little sentimental, and with a surprising, sharp political edge best sums up this story about a man who gets to play president, takes on the bad guys and gets the girl in a happy ending.
President William Mitchell is a political sleaze who two-times his wife, Ellen (Sigourney Weaver), betrays his few principles and doesn't care much about anything. He frequently employs look alikes so he can have unnoticed time for his bimbos. But this time, after a major speech, while he's in the midst of love making, he has a major stroke in the arms of his latest girl friend. His double this time is a guy who runs a temp agency, who tries to help the people he comes into contact with and who has a sunny, open disposition. He's the kind of guy who sings "Oklahoma!" while riding his bike. He's named Dave Kovic and he's played by Kevin Kline in a first-rate performance of great charm and likeability. But the chief of staff, Bob Alexander (Frank Langella), an arrogant and condescending politico, plots to keep Dave in place by putting out the story that the president suffered only a "minor circulatory problem of the head." While the innocent lamb Dave covers as the president, Alexander will smear the vice president and force him to resign, then have himself named vice president...at which time Dave will go back to his old life and William Mitchell will be discovered to have had a second and incapacitating stroke. Bob Alexander will then become president.
All goes according to plan until Dave begins to ask questions about helping the poor. He begins to connect with people. He and his best friend, Murray Blum (Charles Grodin) plot to find ways to locate $650 million in the budget to save a shelters program. All this drives Alexander into a frustrated rage. And during all this Dave and Ellen begin to make some connections of their own. She and her real husband had long since stopped having any feelings for each other. The conclusion of the movie is clever, satisfying, requires the complicity of Duane Stevenson (Ving Rhames), the president's secret service body guard, and split second timing.
Some of the reasons this movie works so well, in my opinion, is that all the actors do fine jobs, not just Kline and Weaver. Langella is great (and amusing) as a king maker who wants to be king himself this time. Laura Linney carries off a small but important role with great humor and skill. Charles Grodin as Murray hits just the right note of funny, reluctant suspicion. Scattered throughout the movie are pointed interviews with media and political figures, commenting with dead pan seriousness on the activities of the president.
The music gets a bit sappy at times, but that's not a major drawback. All in all, Dave is something of a throwback to the Frank Capra movies, but with a bit of a sting. I've watched it more than once and enjoy it. The DVD picture looks just fine.