With the same writer, principal cast members (Martin Sheen, at least), and White House milieu, The American President might now be considered Aaron Sorkin's blueprint for his hit TV show The West Wing. Both share the same cheery liberal politics, portraying a near-perfect president fending off his dirty conservative opponents while staying out of the gutter himself. Michael Douglas shines in the title role, showing he really can be loveable after the better part of a decade playing greedy capitalists and scuzzy detectives. But he's just a little too wonderful, with the perfect comment for any situation, for the film to seem like a nuanced character study. Similarly spotless is Annette Bening as his lobbyist girlfriend, whose combination of attack-dog confidence and starry-eyed romanticism make for the complete image of a modern woman, so self-actualized that even the president's teenage daughter loves her at first meeting. It's difficult to believe that dating such a woman would cause the beloved widower's approval rating to drop 20 points, especially in this day and age. These extremes get at the underlying problem of what is otherwise a smart, engaging, and enjoyable film -- it's too afraid to show any chinks in the armor of its good guys, which turns the villains (like Richard Dreyfuss's cackling fear-monger) into similarly one-dimensional symbols. But these sins can be forgiven, because it's great fun to get a realistic look at the behind-the-scenes life of a president, so unwittingly removed from the regular-guy things he loves that he can't even order flowers for his girlfriend without sending it through a committee. This inspires a string of funny moments that propel the film, making it a delightful movie-going experience -- at least for those who agree with its politics.