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Laramie Movie Scope:
The American President

A romantic comedy almost as funny as Hollywood politics

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 20, 1996 -- ``The American President,'' one of the better films of 1995, finally rolled into Laramie in time for the 1996 New Hampshire primary. Maybe there's hope for ``Leaving Las Vegas'' and ``Dead Man Walking'' coming here as well.

``The American President'' is a film in the old Frank Capra tradition. In fact, there are some in-jokes about Capra (who directed ``Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'' and ``It's a Wonderful Life'') in the film. Frank Capra III was involved in the production of the film.

While there are a lot of funny lines in the film, well-delivered by an all-star cast, the film's politics are funniest of all. The politics are about 20 years out of date. The story is about the President, Michael Douglas, falling in love with an environmental lobbyist, Sydney Ellen Wade, played by Annette Bening. The excellent supporting cast includes presidential advisers Martin Sheen and Michael J. Fox and Richard Dreyfuss as the bad guy Republican candidate.

The comic dialogue in the film is excellent. Where the story falls apart is when it gets melodramatic at the end. The president has a big crisis and has to decide between a crime bill and an environmental bill.

The funny thing is that neither the environmental bill (cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent) nor the crime bill (serious gun control) would have any chance of passing Congress in today's political climate.

This is primarily a romantic comedy, however, and on that level it works great. The set design is also good. The film gives you the feeling you are in those those smoke-filled rooms where big deals are made. When it comes down to politics, that's another story. It just goes to show how out of touch Hollywood is with the rest of the country. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)