The American President (1995) Directed by Rob Reiner. With Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen and Michael J. Fox.
Anyone familiar with Aaron Sorkin’s celebrated TV drama, The West Wing will recognise many similarities with Rob Reiner’s romantic drama, The American President. For starters, Sorkin penned the script for both, and the same Oval office sets are used as well the casting of Martin Sheen, the star of The West Wing.
Due to no fault on the films part, the constant reminder of The West Wing is hard to let slip as the series looms large over every character exchange and camera angle. The casting of Martin Sheen as the President’s Chief of Staff, considering he was the main man of the TV series, makes you feel like you’re watching a pilot episode in which they hadn’t quite figured out which actor was going to occupy which role. Furthermore, the overall tone and musical score pile on the reminders, making it all just seem wrong.
The good news, for those unfamiliar with The West Wing, is that you’re in for a smartly written, romantic comedy with some lively performances and cute touches. As President, Michael Douglas tries his hand successfully at the every-man Commander in Chief, while opposite him, Annette Bening is the enjoyably feisty lobbyist, who catches his eye.
Likeable performances aside, the film does lay on the cheese factor a little too heavily at times, as in fairness, did The West Wing, which was never shy of taking an idealistic stance. Of course, sometimes it takes a cynic to form the cynical view, and viewed through the Pretty Woman prism of the 90’s ‘rom-com’, this has to go down as one of the better ones.
In truth, this is a film that needs two reviews, pre and post West Wing. It’s legacy will ultimately live in the shadow of the series, but plays as an interesting piece in terms of seeing the genesis of the TV show. 3.5/5