Wednesday, August 4, 1999

Dick

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 1999 at 12:00 AM

The excitement among the political press corps when the Lewinsky story broke was palpable: A new generation of reporters would get their very own Watergate and the opportunity to walk in the shoes of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. But as Clinton headed toward impeachment and the public showed disgust not just with the political process but the very media covering it, the gleeful expressions turned to confusion. "This is a huge story but no one seems to care," they pontificated – what went wrong?

Although it isn’t up to Dick to answer that question, this light-hearted political satire from writer-director Andrew Fleming (Threesome, The Craft) will inevitably be burdened with fall-out from the scandal. After Monica, the idea that girls could gain access to the president and acquire the kind of information that could bring him down doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Fifteen-year-old best friends Betsy Jobs (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene Lorenzo (Michelle Williams) literally stumble upon important state secrets – first in the Watergate building and later at the White House during a school group tour – but have no idea of their significance. When they meet Richard M. Nixon (Dan Hedaya), he recognizes the girls as a potential threat to security. Nixon employs them as White House dog walkers and "unofficial youth advisers" so he can keep a close eye on them.

At first, the girls love secrets and their powerful new friends. Arlene even develops an immense crush on Tricky Dick himself. But dark clouds appear over Eden when they hear the real Nixon on the Oval Office tapes. In no time, they’ve become Deep Throat, feeding information to Woodward (Will Ferrell) and Bernstein (Bruce McCulloch), hilariously depicted as backstabbing opportunists.

Andrew Fleming wisely chooses not to belabor the parallels between then and now, which allows Dick to stand on its own. By mining humor from the social and political climate of the early ’70s – and not telegraphing its eventual repercussions – Fleming creates a nifty little story about innocence transformed into experience instead of cynicism. There’ll be plenty of time for that later.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at letters@metrotimes.com.

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