The American President (1995)

An old review of mine in honour of America’s election day.

I’m stuck in a bit of a quandary with this review. You see, back in the day I was a great admirer of this Rob Reiner-directed movie. This was years ago, long before I knew who Aaron Sorkin was, long before I’d watched a minute of “The West Wing”. I have to come clean now, spill the beans and all that. Sad as it may be, but I cannot give this movie as much love as I once did. It’s weird to think that watching as much of “The West Wing” as I have has affected my ability to judge this movie solely on its own merits. Although it’s probably not “WW”‘s fault, more like Aaron Sorkin’s.

So in case you couldn’t tell, Sorkin was the writer for this movie and it’s more or less an abbreviated version of certain events that he’d later expand upon in “WW”. President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) is a widower, raising his young daughter Lucy (Shawna Waldron) and occupying the office of the most powerful man in the free world. He’s currently sitting at a 63% approval rating, mostly thanks to his charm and the talents of his White House staff. Many of the actors in this movie will one day be seen again on “The West Wing” because Sorkin loves to recycle or something. At this point I wish I had the great talent of being able to write low-key satire, because Sorkin’s career right now is beginning to become the target of much scorn and derision on the Internets (he has since somewhat redeemed himself with The Social Network among other projects).

I keep losing the vein of this review in frustrated tangents, but it can’t be helped. Time will do nothing but harm this movie, whether it be due to the political climate, the increasing reliance on the Internet as a viable news source, or Sorkin’s inability to not repeat himself. I’d like to be able to sit down and tell you all about the acting in this movie (top marks all around), the writing (stellar, though a bit heavy-handed at times), how regal the movie looks, etc. but I keep getting swept up in the air of disappointment that it doesn’t live up to my past memories of it. That’s not to say that it isn’t good, it’s just not as good to me as it used to be.

I enjoy the snappy dialogue, the wonderful chemistry that exists between the entire cast, all of that. But in the end it all rings hollow to me. All of these characters are just painted with broad strokes and they never get fleshed out until “The West Wing”, it’s as simple as that. Even the goddamn names of the characters (though for some reason there is no Danny) seem to be a byproduct of Sorkin’s one-trick-pony. It’s still a great movie, but it makes you feel like you’re stuck watching the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer and not the fantastic TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. I’ll heartily recommend it to anyone that has never watched “The West Wing” though.

3.5 / 5

About SkoochXC
Long-time blogger, Canadian, cine-snark-aphile, Tweeter and generally lonely hearted guy.

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