With the President of America recovering from a stroke, the White House track down his spitting image, and force him make public appearances before the public notice. Only Dave has a mind of his own and soon the White House begin to realise their mistake.
Amiable is the defining word for this comedy in which Kevin Kline adds to the comic tradition of VIPs swapped with doppelgangers, doing double duty as a despicable President of the United States and the lookalike Everyman, Dave Kovic, who is drafted to stand in for the Pres when the real one is felled by an ill-timed stroke. Ill-timed, that is, for conniving politicos and White House chief of staff Frank Langella who has duped Dave into this masquerade to a heinous end, but rather fortuitous for the country. For Dave is an impersonator with a conscience who decides to "share a couple of ideas with the country", addressing himself to the nation's moral and economic ills.
This sweetly funny farce perpetuates the common but erroneous belief that the President of the United States actually runs things. Filmed in the runup to the-then presidential election (with, by the way, very good reconstructions of the White House and its South Lawn) and informed by the public's loathing of politicians, it derives its best moments from bringing Dave's normal guy's point-of-view to bear upon corruption and bureaucracy. Dave's approach to tackling the budget deficit, for instance, is an absolute hoot, but also appeals to Joe Normal's gut feeling that a little decency and common sense could perform miracles in Washington.
Kline works wonders here with a captivating comic performance that sustains even when the sharper humour of the first half gives way to increasingly cutesy, dewy-eyed developments. The ensemble around him is excellent, too, from corgi-toting First Lady Weaver and Langella to Ben Kingsley as the Vice-President. Cameos from dozens of real politicians, newsreaders, reporters, lawmakers and celebrities as themselves add to the fun, including an appearance from Oliver Stone to expound a conspiracy theory that gives the film its hippest gag. Flimsy, yes, but warmly recommended for light-hearted likeability.
Although its politics may be shaky, this comedy still works thank to the charm of Kline and an excellent supporting cast. But it's more likely to provide warm, fuzzy smiles than belly laughs.