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 The politics are about 20 years out of date.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.
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