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  Dick Tricky SituationBuy this film here.
Year: 1999
Director: Andrew Fleming
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya, Will Ferrell, Bruce McCulloch, Teri Garr, Dave Foley, Jim Breuer, Ana Gasteyer, Harry Shearer, Saul Rubinek, Devon Gummersall, Ted McGinley, Ryan Reynolds, G.D. Spradlin, Shannon Lawson, Karl Pruner
Genre: Comedy
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: The Watergate complex in 1972, and two fifteen-year-old girls, Betsy (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene (Michelle Williams) have typed up a fan letter to their current idol, but want to sneak out to post it in the dead of night. Arlene has a scheme to pull that off, but as they conduct their subterfuge with their parents unaware, they don't know they have alerted one of the building's security guards, which is not unfortunate for them, but is unfortunate for the burglars who have been breaking into Democratic Party offices there...

You have to remember there was a time when the Watergate scandal's Deep Throat, that was the contact who revealed all to journalists Woodward and Bernstein, was a closely guarded secret, which allowed writer (with Sheryl Longin) and director Andrew Fleming carte blanche to make up whatever they liked about their identity. So here the conceit was that this was no Washington insider spilling the beans, but a pair of naive teenage girls who had been dazzled by their proximity to political high flyers until they cottoned onto the fact that their new hero Richard Nixon (Dan Hedaya, who gets the voice spot on) had feet of clay.

Before that, there was an overload of goodnatured satire to wade through, which for the first half looks to have been written by a staunch Republican on the evidence of how much a bunch of loveable buffoons the conspirators are shown to be. This would be morally dubious at best, but Fleming did have the girls wake up to the fact that they (and presumably by extension the American public) had been duped after much sitcom-esque, light humour which mines its seam of spoofery in a style lacking in anything so much as eyeing the jugular, never mind outright going for it. For such a dark period of U.S. politics, this isn't half a sunny movie.

It says a lot about the perception of Nixon that he could be seen as almost a poor sap, a victim of his own demons, rather than the devious schemer that his critics saw him as, so if you wanted any kind of astute analysis here then you would be looking in the wrong place. If, however, you wanted references to the events of the day, and lots of them, everything from the document shredding to Vietnam to the "plumbers", then you would find rich pickings, except that it was not quite enough to show that the writers had done their research. Although Fleming did a nice, nostalgic recreation of the early-to-mid seventies, this was mild stuff.

Betsy and Arlene get their foot in the door of history when they are on a school trip to the White House and pick up a stray document that G. Gordon Liddy (Harry Shearer) has been trailing around stuck to his shoe. It is a list of names which the Watergate criminals were targeting, but the girls simply take it as a souvenir, though they next end up in the presence of Nixon when they respond to Checkers the dog, which gets them a job walking the pooch - and bringing the staff cookies, unbeknownst to everyone containing the hash their brother uses. If you think the idea of conservative, staight-laced characters getting unintentionally high is hilarious, then that's about the level you'll find here, but anything more savage is beyond the film. With an impressive cast and a parody of All the President's Men to boot, Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch as bickering ninnies rather than crusaders for truth, there was a lot of promise here, but finally Dick ends up gently amusing though nothing more. Music by John Debney.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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