Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Ben Kingsley. (1993, PG-13, 110 min.)

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., May 7, 1993

Scrambling after the Frank Capra crown, Ivan Reitman offers up Mr. Prisoner of Zenda Goes to Washington, a charming political comedy. Small-time actor and employment agency boss Dave Kovic (Kline), a dead ringer for President Bill Mitchell (also Kline), is hired to impersonate the president leaving a hotel after a speech. This way the leader of the free world can sneak away for a rendezvous with his receptionist girlfriend. Unfortunately, during sex he has a seizure and Dave is pressed into playing president by the evil chief of staff (Langella in an inspired turn). Slowly, Dave begins to grow into his role, which turns Langella's fury upon him. The film is full of holes and flaws, but they're really not important. Kline powers this along with two inspired performances and Weaver helps as the almost estranged wife who begins to feel a fondness for her changed husband. Chock full of cameos by politicians, journalists and general media stars, the film is stolen by Grodin as Dave's accountant friend whom he calls in to help cut the budget. Blowing a couple of ethical tires towards the end (and to argue exactly what they are would give too much away) doesn't even slow the film down, as the imaginative narrative never runs out of steam. Reitman's often been inspired in the past (Ghostbusters, Stripes), though even the best of his films are flawed by baroque and overweighted narratives. Since becoming a major hit filmmaker with Twins and Kindergarten Cop, however, the genius behind Meatballs has gotten too serious. The film is very funny, but a thoughtful Reitman is just not as funny as when he used to blast into space.

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