The better you remember the early 70’s, the more you will enjoy this very funny movie. It purports to reveal the “Deep Throat” who gave the Washington Post the inside information that led to President Nixon’s resignation. And come to think of it, in many ways this makes more sense than what we’ve been led to believe is the real story. According to this film, the downfall of the Nixon administration was caused by two 15-year- old girls who are so dim that H.R. Haldeman (Dave Foley) says, “I’ve met yams who have more going on upstairs than those two.”
Besty (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene (Michelle Williams) are bubble-headed best friends who accidentally see a burgler breaking into the Watergate when they sneak out to mail in an entry to the “Why I should win a date with Bobby Sherman” contest at Tiger Beat magazine. The next day, they spot the same man (Harry Sherer as Gordon Liddy) while they are on a White House tour. Worried that they might tell someone, President Richard Nixon (Dan Hedaya) tries to co-opt them by appointing them “official White House dog walkers” and “secret teen advisors.”
At first the girls are thrilled, and they believe the President when he tells them that the massive shredding of documents they stumbled upon is for his hobby of paper mache. Arlene even develops a crush on “Dick” and is swooningly recording an Olivia Newton John song for him when she accidentally erases 18 1/2 minutes from one of his tapes. When she hears on the tape that he is not what he seemed, the two girls decide to talk to the Washington Post reporters and end up turning over the key evidence in a parking garage.
Boomer parents who lived through the 1970’s will enjoy this visit to the worst hair and clothes decade of the century. It is a clever tweak on the “Forrest Gump” concept, as the two girls turn out to be responsible for many of the best-remembered historical details of the era. “Satuday Night Live” and “Kids From the Hall” regulars appear as the people Woodward and Bernstein called “the President’s Men” (plus Rosemary Woods) and as Woodward and Bernstein themselves. All are terrific, and the under- appreciated Saul Rubinek is a stand-out as Henry Kissinger, far smarter than the people around him but so needy that he will try to persuade even the girls to agree with him. And Dan Hedaya, the only man in America with a five-o’clock shadow heavier than that of the real Richard Nixon, is sensational, needy, paranoid, and, in an hilarious dream sequence, positively endearing.
Some teens will enjoy it, even without a grounding in the history, but they will enjoy it more if they watch “All the President’s Men” first (Bruce McCulloch does a fine job parodying not just Carl Bernstein but also Dustin Hoffman playing Carl Bernstein). Parents should know that the explitives are not deleted and there is some very strong language, including puns relating to the President’s first name and a whispered explanation of the original meaning of “Deep Throat.” Betsy’s brother is a heavy drug user who is perpetually stoned, and some of his marijuana makes its way into the cookies the girls make for the President. Families will want to discuss the real events underlying the Watergate scandal and the impact it has had on the way we see the Presidency and the way the media covers the Presidents.
Video tip: This movie is reminiscient of the best movie ever about two girls with a crush on an impossible object: “The World of Henry Orient.” A funny and insightful glimpse into the stage of life where we rehearse our emotions by fixing on the unattainable, it is well worth watching. I noticed that “Dick” shares one important prop with “Henry Orient,” the super-modern one-piece telephone, and suspected that it was an homage to a classic film.