Dick

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 4 1999 5:17 p.m. MDT

As funny as it is in places, it's hard to imagine what audience the comedy "Dick" is meant for.

Younger viewers hadn't even been born when most of the events being skewered in the film occurred, so it's unlikely that most of them will understand what's supposed to be so humorous. And many older, more knowledgeable viewers will be put off by the movie's high vulgarity quotient.

In fact, the movie is mostly a series of cheap and unnecessary crude gags — including some rather obvious verbal gags — which ultimately consigns it to the "nice-try-but-not-quite" scrapheap. And that's a pity, considering how timely some of the subject matter actually is.

An argument could also be made that the talented cast is wasted because there simply aren't enough good lines to go around. Although two performers who have no room to complain are actresses Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams.

They play, respectively, Betsy Jobs and Arlene Lorenzo, ditzy teens who find themselves caught up in the midst of the biggest political scandal of the '70s, Watergate. First, the girls spy G. Gordon Liddy (Harry Shearer) breaking into the Watergate Hotel. Then, while on a class trip to the White House, they stumble onto even more secrets.

However, the two girls remain clueless about what they've seen, and instead wind up making friends with the White House dog, Checkers, and his master, President Richard Nixon (Dan Hedaya).

In an effort to determine what the girls know, Nixon appoints them to be the official White House dog walkers.

Soon enough, they are visiting the White House every day — and they are soon unwittingly changing the course of history in subtle ways. But when the teens eventually discover the Nixon administration's real secrets, they're suddenly in danger of losing their lives along with their naivete.

The results are sporadically funny, which is a surprise since the film still comes from co-writer/director, Andrew Fleming, the same person who gave us the extremely unsubtle films "Threesome" and "The Craft."

Fortunately, he's got a lot more to work with, talentwise, this time around. Both Dunst and Williams are winningly silly — though their performances verge on one-note annoying, as does Hedaya's constant mugging.

The real laughs come from the supporting performers, especially Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch as a looks-and-fame-obsessed Woodward and Bernstein, as well as Saul Rubinek's take on Henry Kissinger.

"Dick" is rated PG-13 for vulgar humor (most involving use of crude slang terms), profanity (including the so-called R-rated curse word), simulated drug use (marijuana) and some violence (slapping, and an attempted vehicular homicide).