The Lowdown On <i>Dick</i>

This week, CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard reviews Dick, a Columbia Pictures release starring Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya, Will Ferrell, Dave Foley and Bruce McCulloch.


He went away by whirlybird. He returns as the repressed, like a Freudian bedtime story. IÂ'm talking, of course, about Richard Nixon. Last week was not only the 25th anniversary of the resignation of the Fighting Quaker, but also the occasion of a new movie called Dick, in which a couple of bubblegum-brained teen-age girls happen to be in the Watergate the night the plumbers spring a leak.

Clueless Meets Deep Throat
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John Leonard
They also happen to meet the Prez himself on a class trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, happen to get appointed official White House dog walkers, happen to discover, while singing an Olivia Newton-John love song, high crimes and misdemeanors on the tape machine that the Maximum Leader of the Free World uses to bug himself, and then spill these beans to a pair of Washington Post reporters in an underground parking garage. In other words, Clueless meets Deep Throat.

Dick isnÂ't Clueless, because Clueless was perfect. But Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are wonderfully insouciant as the giggly teens - for whom politics is a pep rally and history is window shopping. And Dan Hedaya is a satiric bullÂ's-eye Tricky Dick, obliged to erase those 18 and a half minutes that would seem to suggest he had corrupted the morals of a minor.

Reviews by CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard
And Dave Foley is as ridiculous as Bob Haldeman as Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch are buffoonish as Woodward and Bernstein, who should probably sue director Andrew Fleming for defamation of almost everything.

Many Nixons to Choose Fromcolor>

Until Dick, I thought my choice of Richard Nixons was between the superserious take of Garry Wills in Nixon Agonistes, who called him "the least Â'authenticÂ' man alive," lacking "the stamp of place or personality because the Market is death to style, and he is the MarketÂ's servant."

Or, more absurdly, the Nixon who was so grateful to Elvis Presley for warning him about the acid-dropping anti-Americanism of the Beatles that he actually deputized Elvis as a feeral drug enforcement agent and gave him an undercover badge.

Then there is Robert CooverÂ's whimsical novel, Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears, which imagines the young Dick at Whittier College choosing football instead of politics as a career, shot down crossing a picket line in a strike against Republic Steel?

But now that Hollywood has obviously decided to rewrite American history from the point of view of Valley Girls and computer geeks, I am persuaded that the ultimate truth about Watergate jailbirds will only be revealed in a special episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


Written by John Leonard
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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