Dave is a peculiar movie. It’s a fairy tale at its core—a Cinderella story, only with the princess who’s rewarded for her patience and kindness being, in this case, a middle-aged guy named Dave. The film goes like this: Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) runs a temp agency outside of Washington, D.C. Because he bears an uncanny resemblance to the sitting president, William Mitchell, Dave is tapped to stand in for Mitchell as he’s leaving public events and whatnot, for “security” purposes. But then, one evening, Mitchell has a stroke, and suddenly the president’s body double—on the advice of administration officials who don’t see a coma as a reason to relinquish their hard-fought power—finds himself playing the role of … the actual president. Yes, of the United States.
Are you ready for the extremely predictable spoiler? The outsider—the guy who has no political training at all, and who’s never run for office, let alone been elected to one—ends up being a much better politician than the man who was duly elected to the presidency. Bill Mitchell is cold and calculating and criminal and (even worse, in the movie’s eyes) uncaring about the needs of ordinary Americans; “Bill Mitchell,” though, is compassionate and dedicated. He’s also really fun! He likes performing! He does the hula with a robot at a factory as the workers cheer him on! He does, in the end, the thing that politicians so often claim they do: he cares about people’s lives. Dave, the movie named for him argues, is constitutionally, if not Constitutionally, fit to govern the nation. He is good at politics precisely because he is not, in any of the ways that end up mattering, a politician.