Anthony's Film Review

Dick (1999)

Political satire presented in an unusual but clever script...

If the 1976 drama film All the President's Men is the classic retelling of the Watergate scandal, then the 1999 comedy movie Dick is the classic satire of the Watergate scandal. When I say "classic," I don't mean that they're masterpiece films. I just mean that they're the first movies you'd think about when you think of President Richard Nixon and his ties to the infamous break-in at the Watergate Hotel. Now, because I generally don't review two movies simultaneously, I shall focus on the comedy. I will say right now that it is funny. Not in a hilarious way but in a clever way.

Basically, Dick combines the teen comedy and the political comedy in a way that ultimately pokes fun at Tricky Dick and the Watergate business. The main characters are two 15-year-old girls in Washington, DC: Betsy (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene (Michelle Williams), the latter of who lives in the Watergate building. They're just like any other teenage girls, focused on having fun. One night, they go out to mail a letter to enter a contest. On the way, they stumble onto the Watergate break-in in progress. They are spotted, but they manage to escape.

Later, the girls go to the White House on a school field trip. As a result of being recognized from the Watergate building, they are brought to President Nixon (Dan Hedaya) who comes up with an idea for handling this delicate security matter: hire the girls as the official White House dogwalkers. It doesn't actually work, because Betsy and Arlene do stumble onto more government secrets. For example, they accidentally enter a room in the White House where lots of documents are being shredded and lots of money is being sorted. Nixon does his best to cover it up, by explaining to the girls that paper mache is one of his hobbies.

As you can tell, the humor of Dick is in the script. It involves a retelling of the events of Watergate but with fictional material to fill in the mysteries. There are some jokes in the scenes themselves, but they mostly seem mundane. That's not to say the movie isn't funny. It's just not funny in that particular way. But if you enjoy a funny story, you'll like this one. As for the two main characters, they are not the brightest young people, but they're not the dumbest either. They act as naturally as any average person would in the situations they're in. On the other hand, it is somewhat weird to see the character of Arlene having a crush on President Nixon.

While the first half of the movie may have some occasional big laughs, it does get better in the second half. Let me tell you about my favorite scene in Dick. This is when Betsy and Arlene discover a recording of Nixon implicating himself in the Watergate scandal. They are appalled by his connection, not to mention by his tendency to swear. This especially crushes Arlene's heart. So they find a way to get back at the President. They call two reporters at the Washington Post who are named Bob Woodward (Will Ferrell) and Carl Bernstein (Bruce McCulloch). Betsy and Arlene spill secrets about Nixon to the reporters. When asked about their name, Betsy and Arlene spontaneously come up with an alias: Deep Throat, because Betsy's brother recently saw that adult movie.

You get the idea. The movie cleverly combines two genres of comedy, but still manages to focus on its main purpose of political satire. The only thing I can't figure out, though, is how writer and director Andrew Fleming came up with this idea in the first place and why he would want to do a movie this way. Maybe he's trying to show us that even the most ordinary American citizens can have major impact on politics. Maybe he wants to give the real Nixon what he deserves. Then again, maybe the story is just meant to make us laugh and nothing more. Whatever the reason may be, the resulting movie is clever and original enough to be notable political satire.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Dick, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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