Dave After Dark Review
By Bret Dorman
If you asked me “If you could be any animal, which would you choose?” I could easy rattle off a couple. Tiger. Big cat that is stealthy and at the top of its food chain. Falcon. Can fly and is at the top of its food chain. Great White Shark. Can swim well and is scary and at the top of its food chain. But honestly, if I had to choose just one, I’d choose the body of a tiger with gills for underwater swimming and rows of teeth like a shark plus giant falcon wings that could let me fly and the ability to shoot lasers from my eyes. What? With genetic engineering I’m sure this is more than possible. Except maybe the laser part. Maybe.
But if you asked me “if you had to pick one animal that best represented your personality, which would you choose?” I could really only pick one. Parrot. For the reason that anytime I hear a sound, natural or electronic, I tend to unthinkingly recreate that sound with my mouth. So all throughout the day I am making beeping noises and gurgling effects. Sometimes out of boredom and sometimes without even knowing I’m doing it.
When it comes to movies, I know some people are very picky about quotes. They will correct you if you say “the” instead of “a” or something like that. But to me, I’ve never quote obsessed of getting all the words right, instead focusing on the inflection of the voices and tone of the character. I love accents and funny voices and spend half my day talking in random selections of these different ways of speaking. I can do the basic impressions of Christopher Walken, Christopher Nolan batman characters, Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid video game), Sylvester Stallone, Al Pacino, and The Action God Himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And anyone who does an impression of a President is usually doing an impression of an SNL cast member doing an impression of a President (Dana Carvey’s George H. W. Bush anyone?).
Most of the time, my impressions of sounds, movie character, or celebrities are broad and over the top. I’ve never had to focus on the small details, those little things that can really sell an impression. The movie Dave not only focuses on convincing people one person is someone else, it also has a great cast of character actors for you to have a great time impersonating yourself.The Story: Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) is called in the impersonate The President after he falls ill. In doing so, Dave now Bill is guided by his staff members Bob and Alan (Frank Langella and Kevin Dunn) while tricking everyone in America including “his” wife Ellen (Sigourney Weaver). Things get tense when he actually starts to make political changes on his own. Also tons of celebrities and politicians cameo as themselves, including The Action God Himself!
There are three specific kinds of performances that make up a comedy. 1) Funny people doing funny things, like Kevin Kline. 2) Straight “men” who sell those funny people doing funny things, like Charles Grodin. 3) Good actors who play a more serious character but are doing so using cliche lines/clear plot driven decisions and playing the part so dramatically it becomes silly, like Frank Langella. For having an amazing cast with a wide range of comedic sensibilities, its surprising writer Gary Ross and director Ivan Reitman were able to mesh all these unique senses of humor together and combine that with a simple story. Most comedies work best when you keep the plot simple (Man impersonates President) and let the cast do most of the work.While there are so many performances to drool over or laugh at in Dave, the star of the movie really is Dave/Bill himself, Kevin Kline. As someone who studied at Juilliard and has performed Shakespeare, Kline is proof that to be funny… you just have to be funny. His timing, line delivery, and physicality in the movie aren’t something you can study and approach from an overly technical point of view. His character Dave is someone who has to pretend to be someone else, but can’t help that his shinning personality seeps through a bit. This is perfect for someone like Kevin Kline to embody, seeing as even in his most dramatic roles he has an undeniable charm that manages to seep through a bit as well. I also just have a soft spot for good natured characters who are just trying to do the right thing, despite many people telling them otherwise. So when the character Dave, acting as Bill for the first time can’t contain his excitement and addresses “his people” I can’t help but laugh. From then on out he’s broadly funny as he asks about keeping White House pens and using giant robot arms; as well as more subtly funny talking to his secret service agent (Ving Rhames!) about taking a bullet or about “Camp David” as if it were an actual camp. Writing a movie about politics can be a touchy subject. Even if you get good performances from good actors, say the wrong thing or seem to promote one particular side of a hot topic and you could lose half your audience. Luckily the script is handled with just enough stereotyping that it dodges the topics and focuses on the politicians themselves. The President is portrayed as an emotionless and cold business man, his “puppet masters” are conniving power hungry mad men, his wife is just a wife in title, and the secret service guys take their job VERY seriously. Once the genuinely kind hearted Dave is thrown into the mix everyone else is forced to take a look at themselves and what they have become. While the movie does feature some “wouldn’t it be nice if politicians really cared” scenes, it never treats this fantasy as a demand, instead relying on Kline’s natural charm to make it tolerable. Luckily, as stated above, Kline is more than capable of such a task, elevating the sappy moments to heartwarming ones.
As with After Dark alumni Ghostbusters, Ivan Reitman once again proves he is not only able to expertly direct an ensemble cast, he also makes a good film. Some comedies have the tendency to just rely on comedians to do funny things and the movie making itself is a bit bland beside of it. But Reitman uses specific camera moves/edits to portray different emotions within the scenes. He even gets a laugh as the camera tracks some clothes on the ground leading to the bed, which is empty, then moves back to the ground as two characters are romantically entangled under the sheets on the floor right next to where the shot originally started. Even if the movie is old, its refreshing to see a lighthearted comedy treated as a serious film from the filmmakers themselves.
Why You Must See It After Dark: I myself am impersonating a (non-specific) Angelika spokesperson when I promote the movies writing these reviews. Like Dave acting as Bill, I’m sure if I was officially endorsed I would be expected to act a certain way. Instead, like Dave acting as Bill, I can’t help but let my love of movies and passion for the After Dark film series shine through. So this inaugural weekend, treat yourself to a laugh with Dave and escape to the fantastical Angelika Mosaic before having to return to the realities of the real world. And with Angelika’s technologically advanced setup, I’m sure there will be plenty of “beeps” and “boops” for you to hear and repeat like a parrot. I know I will.