Having just seen The American President recently on Blu-ray, it did make me remember that it has been awhile since I had seen the Presidential comedy Dave. I am not entirely sure why I have skipped this over the years, maybe it was the concept behind the story or the story itself. But since Warner Brothers released both theatrically and has now released both on Blu-ray, why not complete the stroll down memory lane?
Written by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) and directed by Ivan Reitman (Animal House), the title character of Dave is played by Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda). Dave runs a placement agency and looks eerily like the current President, a man named Bill Mitchell (whom Kline also portrays). When Mitchell lapses into a coma, Dave is called on to inhabit the role, not only by Mitchell's security guard (Ving Rhames, Pulp Fiction), but also by White House Chief of Staff Bob Alexander (Frank Langella, The Box) and Communications Director Alan Reed (Kevin Dunn, Transformers). Bob and Alan convince Dave to take the role on and eschew the chain of succession, which would normally involve the Vice President (Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast) taking power, because Bob and Alan want to set their agenda and keep Dave out of the loop. As the days grow and the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver, Avatar) emerges and becomes more involved with the administration, things start to get a little sticky.
In some films that deal with the Presidency, there tends to be an overly romantic or quixotic fascination with the Oval Office and on politics in general, and Dave tends to exhibit this on occasion, particularly as Dave enters his first few days and hours of office. When he actually tries to DO something, like cutting the budget at a Cabinet meeting to preserve a homeless shelter that is a pet peeve of the First Lady, the feeling is one of reward. Kline captures this optimism (or naivety depending on your perspective) effectively, to the point where is worth going on the ride for most of the journey. Even as the First Lady gently warms to the task and to Dave's charm, and revisits her skepticism the more she spends time with him. Weaver is up to the task and her chemistry with Kline is surprising. And Langella? What can you say, the guy plays a great heel, and this is no different.
Despite three good (albeit not very distinguished) performances, the story tends to throw many clichés at the wall to see if any will resonate in viewers' hearts, combined with a bevy of cameo appearances by politicos of the day in 1993. And Dave, while being a very nice guy, still asks us to make leaps of faith that get hard to believe, even when you take the concept of a look-alike president at face value. Or to put it another way, once Dave picks his head up and realizes that he is actually President, that's where the problems of Dave start to kick in.
In a way it is a little bit of a shame. While The American President is the one White House romantic comedy people have remembered, Dave is a nice little movie on its own merits. Goodness knows in today's modern political arena, maybe a charismatic copy of our leaders may be a good thing.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Dave is given an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 high-definition transfer that is not all that special. It has moments of clarity and detail in the foreground and background, those said moments are few and far between, and are not razor sharp in said detail. Black levels are decent though not entirely strong, and film grain is ample during viewing. I would not expect much in the way of post-release image processing and did not really see it, the film was as natural a viewing experience as I anticipated.
A two-channel DTS-HD Master Audio lossless mix is the track of choice here, with the results being mildly disappointing. Sure, the film came out on standard definition (twice, no less) with separate two-channel stereo mixes, but it does not mean I have to like it. All of the action occurs in the front channels with some mirroring of the action in the rears, but this is a dynamically limited film to listen to. Dialogue is strong and consistent throughout, and everything else is filler in the hot dog.
Eh, a rather ordinary making of piece (6:36) that is more of an electronic press kit than anything else, along with the film's trailer (2:10).
Dave gets into your brain, fools around for a little while and piques your interest, slightly overstays its welcome and leaves. Come to think of it, that is kind of like a politician itself. Technically it is nothing special (and hardly worth upgrading for those with an older copy) and has bupkis in the supplemental area. It is a nice rental and very little more than that.