If you thought good political satire was dead, you don’t know about the recently Sony Pictures Entertainment release entitled DICK. Andrew Fleming’s hilarious send-up of the Watergate scandal will revive people’s faith in political satire’s survival as a genre – a genre that has faded as SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE dies a slow death, and DOONESBURY becomes increasingly lame.
Like many who have exhausted themselves trying to identify “Deep Throat,” the anonymous informant who broke open the Watergate case, DICK hypothesizes that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s legendary whistleblower was actually a composite rather than an individual. This movie reveals Deep Throat’s identity to be…(drum roll, please!): two brainless 15-year-old girls named Betsy (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene (Michelle Williams). Betsy and Arlene become unwittingly and inextricably entangled in the Watergate web while touring the White House with their high-school class.
As they prance past the Oval Office giggling at portraits of ugly dead presidents, these two teeny-boppers stumble upon incriminating information that could prove toxic to the Nixon presidency: the list of “CREEPS,” or bribery targets. While mailing a fan letter to some teen heartthrob, they also run into G. Gordon Liddy at the Watergate hotel on the night of the break-in. Nixon (played by the skillful Dan Hedaya, best known for his role as Nick Tortelli in TV’s CHEERS and the wise father in CLUELESS) is alerted to the girls’ inside knowledge and asks the guileless teenagers to walk his dog Checkers in order to win their loyalty. They happily agree, and quickly befriend Tricky Dick (“Call me Dick,” he garbles genially at their first meeting). Predictably, the girls continue to trip over damning evidence of Nixon’s nefarious activities, as when they accidentally enter a room full of frantically busy paper shredders (“I have a fondness for papier mache,” Nixon explains). So Dick upgrades the girls’ status from dog-walkers to “Secret Youth Advisors.” Meanwhile, Arlene develops a crush on Nixon, triggering a hilarious, soft-focus fantasy scene in which she whirls hand-in-hand on the beach with the be-suited President.
Arlene’s ardor eventually cools, however, when the girls find the infamous tapes, which arouse the dog-walkers’ ire not because they capture Tricky Dick plotting crimes, but because they record him “being mean to Checkers.” The two teenagers confront Dick with their findings, and soon become Enemies of the State followed everywhere by a black van inscribed “The Plumbers.” The girls then, of course, turn to none other than Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to spill their story.
Sound familiar? Of course, but all along the way DICK is peppered with screamingly funny parodies and impersonations, as well as witty dialogue that cleverly incorporates famous Watergate quotes and turns them on their ear. This movie is worth seeing for its parody of the pompous Woodward and Bernstein alone. DICK skewers both sides of the Watergate mess – the shady administration and the insufferably self-important press. All of these satirical roles are played to the hilt – stopping just short of over-exaggeration – by a talented cast who know when to be subtle. Kirsten Dunst particularly shines in her role as Betsy, proving herself a gifted comedienne, and Dan Hedaya makes a great Nixon. He gives quirky dimension to the stiff, paranoiac, Tricky-Dick stereotype.
Add to this mix several more assets: DICK features a rousing Seventies soundtrack and candy-for-the-eyes costumes and sets. The movie is pleasantly awash in the jellybean hues of the era, and the two teenage protagonists’ exaggeratedly cute dresses contrast ingeniously with the ubiquitous dark suits of the Nixon administration.
The movie’s final scenes mar its innocence somewhat. In a scene that may offend some viewers, the girls celebrate Nixon’s resignation by cutting up an American flag to make red-white-and-blue outfits. The movie depicts the poignant moments when Nixon made his farewell walk to Air Force One after resigning, then pans over to the two flag-bedecked Secret Youth Advisors waving a mildly tasteless, irreverent banner that makes a sexual play on words using Nixon’s nickname. This banner-waving scene seems uncharitable and unfunny when juxtaposed against Nixon’s last march across the White House lawn. That final walk became a defining moment in American history, and it remains moving even when parodied, no matter what your political leanings.
DICK seems to be aimed primarily at teenagers, but adults who lived through the Nixon years – or who are fascinated by Watergate and its consequences – will appreciate this comedy more than their younger counterparts. Many teenagers will not get the jokes about John Dean and Bob Haldeman. DICK revives political satire.
Mild moral worldview mocking and criticizing Richard Nixon & the news media with some mild politically correct elements & mild anti-patriotic elements; 12 obscenities, 17 profanities, 10 vulgarities, bathroom humor, & obscene gestures; no violence; teenage girls in skimpy costumes; lust after married man, frequent double entendre related to movie's title, discussion of oral sex & sexual euphemisms; alcohol use; drug use; and, arguing.