Mister Kovic Goes To Washington

Nice guy Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline), who finds temporary jobs for the unemployed, is a dead ringer for the president of the United States (Kevin Kline). When approached by the Secret Service, he takes a temp job himself, as a one-time stand-in for the prez. But when the president has a stroke while boffing his secretary, the power-mad chief of staff (Frank Langella) and communications director (Kevin Dunn) stage a little coup d'etat. Wouldn't Dave like to play his role a bit longer? Their unwitting tool agrees and discovers that he has his own ideas of how to run the government-and that the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver) turns him on.

Screenwriter Gary ("Big") Ross may have borrowed his look-alike premise from "The Prince and the Pauper" and "The Prisoner of Zenda " but Dave is delightful proof that old fables can be wittily recycled. Under director Ivan Reitman's surprisingly delicate hand, "Dave" goes more for charm and chuckles than for the political jugular. This is cleverly updated Capracorn with a common-man hero whose genuine concern for the people makes the legitimate incumbent look bad.

Self-mocking cameos by real pols, media folk and celebs, including NEWSWEEK'S Eleanor Clift and a conspiracy-sniffing Oliver Stone, provide bonus fun. But it's the spritely comic timing of the fine Hollywood ensemble that keeps "Dave" percolating. This affable, well-built comedy is Reitman's best since "Ghostbusters."