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Dick (1999)

10 August 2003 by Gnoll No Comment

DICK


1999, Dir. Andrew Fleming
94 min. Rated PG-13.
Starring: Dan Hedaya, Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dave Foley.

Review by Gnoll

Yep, That’s Dick. As in President Richard M. Nixon. Or as in penis, which this film likes to point out every chance it gets.

Now before I continue, Let me say that behind GO and EYES WIDE SHUT, Andrew Fleming’s DICK is the film I’ve enjoyed most in 1999. I honestly laughed my ass off as I watched this Clueless-cum-Gump comedy unravel. It was a brilliant concept from the getgo, and with a few exceptions, pulled off the story excellently. But I am here not to talk about how good the film was, I’m here to let the director know where he went wrong.

Andrew, I’ve seen two other of your films, which were fatally flawed. 1996’s THE CRAFT was pure cut-and-paste MTV Generation tripe that I only watched because of my weakness for Robin Tunney and Neve Campbell as Catholic schoolgirls. 1994’s THREESOME was a terrible romantic comedy viewed primarily for a similair reason, this time involving Lara Flynn Boyle and the guarantee we’d see some flesh. But Since you’re not a name director at this point who’s ammassed a body of shitty work like, say. Joel Schumacher, I’ll cut you a little slack and wipe the slate clean.

Like I said, DICK had its good points. The main cast was fine. Dan Hedaya was born to play Nixon. Why Oliver Stone even thought of casting Hanks or Hopkins before considering Hedaya is beyond me. Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst did what they were supposed to do without making me want to strangle them for their bubbliness. David Foley was the group’s most underrated performer, really breaking all laws of typecasting to play Bob Haldeman. But from there, things get a little shaky.

Saturday Night Live fixtures Will Ferrell and Jim Breuer just didn’t cut it. Ferrell is not funny, and will never be funny. No matter what the role calls for, he’s always that annoying male cheerleader from those wretched new SNL skits. For some reason, people think this guy is marginally amusing, and I can’t figure out why. So putting him in DICK as Bob Woodward can only mean trouble. I’ll cut Breuer a little more slack, since his role was ultraminimal in the film and he didn’t seen to be over or underexerting himself. But what really saddens me is the downward spiral of Bruce McCollough. Why couldn’t the other Kids in the Hall stay as funny as Foley and Thompson (even if Thompson has limited his repertoire to only playing the gay comic relief, but that’s another rant.)? His bumbling Carl Bernstein is truly one of the lower points in this film. Together with the already insipid Ferrell as Woodward, they make for some of the most unfunny moments in the film. I will, however, point out that Harry Shearer is dead-on as “G-Man” Gordon Liddy and Saul Rubinek couldn’t be better in every aspect in his portrayal of Henry Kissinger.

But once again, I can be forgiving with the cast, seeing as to how the supporting members are the only ones that need retooling. My main problem was the diatribe of cheap penis jokes that just never seemed to stop. They even manage to work their way all the way to the final scene in the film; which, ironically, is the only time I thought a Dick pun really worked in the movie although the buildup to the joke seemed tedious and forced. But every crowd-scene “I love Dick/There’s more to life than Dick” was telegraphed poorly and was utterly unnecessary. Most of the script was brilliantly creative, but was only harmed by the incessant need for brainless phallic puns.

A small complaint of mine is that Nixon is painted in the most unflattering of colors in this film without any positive light shown his way. It’s not sympathetic to the controversial late President in the slightest. Granted, that’s been the media’s take on Nixon for eons, so it’s not that big a deal. Besides, it’s shown in such a tongue-in-cheek manner that one can’t be expected to take anything seriously as biography of any of the characters found within. But unfortunately, it adds to the myth that Richard Nixon was a complete failure as Commander-in-Chief, which the uninformed (and slanted youth of the world) will probably take with them as gospel. Then again, I’m probably taking this way too personally, which I shall now refrain from doing in order to wrap up this review.

So, the big picture here, although you’d be suprised after reading the criticism found within this review, is that I highly recommend DICK. The good fortunately far outweighs the bad. The way the two girls unwittingly change the course of history through childish antics is clever and is carried out well. We now know who Deep Throat is, and why “he” was called such. We now know what was contained on the 18 minutes of tape that was erased in the Watergate evidence. Major events of Nixon’s presidency are highligted as the result of a hypothetical situation, and for the most part, are done to perfection. Even minor events of the day and nuances of the characters are laid out on the table, ones that may go over the heads of viewers less knowledgeable. The setting is flawless, the trends are accurate yet not overbearing (as it was in THE WEDDING SINGER, among other nostalgia pieces), and the pacing is fine. So, for the most part, Andrew Fleming did a pretty good job with DICK.

Just don’t expect much from Fleming if he releases a film called PETER, ROD, or JOHNSON. Or worse yet, the highly anticipated Bill Clinton biopic WILLY.

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