“Dave Kovic was an ordinary guy who was asked to impersonate the President. When they gave him a chance to make the country better…he did.” This is a tagline from this 1993 political spoof that never seems to grow old. Maybe we do need an upbeat, ordinary guy in the White House, but let’s see what happened in the speculative bit of funny fiction. President Bill Mitchel (Kevin Kline) is a bit of a prig, an arrogant guy who hates to look bad even when doing bad things, from signing bills that could shut down programs that needy people depend on to finding a way to cheat on his angry First Lady, Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver). His staffers do his best to protect his from media scandal, and this is one of those times when he needs a decoy in order to get away with some unofficial business between himself and White House secretary, Randi (Laura Linney).
Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander (Frank Langella) and Press Secretary, Alan Reed (Kevin Dunn) send Secret Service agents out to find a double for the President. Agent Duane Stevenson (Ving Rhames) comes across Dave Kovic (also Kevin Kline) as he is doing an impersonation of Bill Mitchell at a local promotion for a Chevrolet dealership in Washington. After the silly promo, Dave goes back to his office, which is Kovic Temps, a small temp agency that gives people temporary jobs. Dave is an upbeat, optimistic man who believes that anyone who wants a job should have one, and does his best to help out his regular temps if they are in a jam with an assignment. After a job is botched when a regular Kovic temp, Lola (Alba Oms) is put on a computer she has not been trained for, Dave takes her to work for his friend, Murray Blum (Charles Grodin), who runs an accounting firm. Blum is stretched thin in trying to keep up with Dave’s demands, but takes Lola on anyway, since he knows she needs to work.
Dave rides his bike home, being carefree, singing songs along the way, even helping out some kids playing catch in the street when a baseball goes out of their reach. He is still singing when he gets home, and he comes in to find Stevenson and another agent waiting for him. They tell him that his country needs him, and the reason for the decoy is completely secret. Dave is honored to help out, and is taken to the hotel where the President is addressing at a lawyers’ convention. When Dave and the President meet, the likeness is uncanny, and we get a great post-modern spin on the classic Mark Twain tale of “The Prince and the Pauper”.
Things don’t go so well with Bill and Randi’s tryst, and Bill suffers a stroke. Alan tells Bob that they need to bring Vice President Nance (Ben Kingsley) in to run things until President Mitchell can come back into office. Bob won’t hear of it. He has groomed this administration to his way of doing things, and he is not going to let a goody two-shoes like Nance undermine all the political spins he has created. Bob has an ace in the hole with Dave. Dave is brought back to the White House, and is told that his country needs him again. The President is in a coma, and in order to keep things flowing smoothly with Congress and foreign regimes, they must have at least the illusion that Bill Mitchell is still running things. Bob thinks that Dave will be completely under his control, but does not know how much different in personality Dave is from the President. Dave is an ordinary guy with the capability, and now has the resources to doing amazingly good things for his country, and Bob can’t let him get away with it. Sorry, Bob, your time is over, because the man who makes sure that everyone works on Wednesday is going to make sure that they do.
Even though this movie came out almost twenty years ago, it could use another viewing by us all to remind us of what can happen when the right person for the job actually gets it by weird circumstances. Would that this sort of thing could happen for all of us these days. In this time of political turmoil, this fun bit of speculation can really make us feel good.
I give this film a Musing review of