The American President (1995)

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Released 14-Sep-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 109:06
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rob Reiner

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Michael Douglas
Annette Bening
Martin Sheen
David Paymer
Samantha Mathis
Michael J. Fox
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $36.95 Music Marc Shaiman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Polish Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) is a widower bringing up a young teenage daughter alone, following the death of his wife through cancer. In the course of his job, he meets a beautiful lobbyist by the name of Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening) whom he strikes up a relationship with. Only problem is that it has been a while since he was involved in the dating game which results in some funny situations. Nothing out of the ordinary here, happens all the time, right? Not when you happen to be the President of the United States, your every move is watched by the world's media and it just happens to be election year. The relationship becomes the talk of the media, Shepherd's approval ratings plummet and an opportunistic Senator Robert Rumson (Richard Dreyfus) takes advantage of the situation to launch his bid for the Presidency.  Add in the different political agendas of the the President and his girlfriend, together with falling vote support for a crucial White House bill, and it soon adds up to a situation requiring all the skills of the President's staff to control (Martin Sheen, Samantha Mathis, David Paymer and Michael J. Fox).

   Whilst this may not be the most politically correct (or is that incorrect?) story in light of the real life escapades in the White House, director Rob Reiner has managed to craft an immensely watchable film from the nicely crafted story by Aaron Sorkin (they previously having collaborated on A Few Good Men) that is a favourite in our household. Rob Reiner has made some great films in his career, but this would have to be one of his very best. The story moves at a wonderful pace, the story is completely believable and the cast do a sterling job in bringing the characters to life. In some places, this film has been described as having a Capra-esque quality to it, referring of course to the immortal works of Frank Capra (most notably Mr Smith Goes To Washington), and it comes as no surprise then to note that the First Assistant Director is none other than Frank Capra III! Frank Capra's films were noted for the strength of the characters, and this is certainly the case with this film.

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Transfer Quality


   Overall, this is a good quality transfer from Universal, although not quite up to the standard of some of their recent releases.

   The transfer is at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

   Overall, the transfer is just a little soft and not as sharply defined as perhaps we have become accustomed to in Universal releases. One soon adjusts to the image however. The transfer comes across as being a little grainy, but this may be associated with the slightly soft definition rather than anything else. Shadow detail is very good throughout.

    Colours are quite nicely rendered, although not especially vibrant. The transfer seems a little over bright for my taste which results in a rather pale pallor to skin tones. Since this is so much more detailed than VHS tape, it is difficult to know whether this is a mastering problem or the inherent style of the film - I would suspect the latter. There is certainly no hint of oversaturation in the colours.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noted. There were some rather frequent if quite minor video artefacts noted. These comprised mainly aliasing of furniture edges and the like, that if you were not really looking for probably would be unnoticed. They did not detract from the enjoyment of the film. There were the usual film artefacts noted, but overall these were not disruptive to the film.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, with the layer change occurring at 56:20. Had it not been for the jogger in the background of the selected frames, the layer change would have been virtually unnoticeable; it is not at all disruptive to the flow of the film.


   The audio transfer is overall of good quality, although it does make little use of the rear channels.

   There are seven audio tracks on the DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the other options being: German Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound, Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound and Polish Dolby Digital 1.0. I listened to the English default as usual.

   The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times.

   Audio sync was not a problem with the transfer at all..

    The music score by Marc Shaiman is virtually non-existent and adds nothing to the film at all, apart from a wonderful theme tune.

    The surround channels were not especially well used during the film, being balanced very much in favour of the front and centre channels: little use is made of the rears, except during some of the music sequences. This is not the best example of a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that you will hear, but it is by no means the worst.

   The bass channel was barely used during the film; it was only noticed during music sequences and then it seemed to be too prevalent in the mix.


    An adequate collection of extras rounds out the package.


    A very plain menu, lacking any form of enhancement whatsoever. Universal must have been listening, as this shows a decided improvement in legibility of the highlighted icon in the menu.

Theatrical trailer

   Not an especially good quality effort. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.


   Nicely detailed biographies of all of the main cast members and director, with some quite detailed filmographies.

Production notes

    Some quite extensive notes that are both informative and legible, detailing most especially the effort gone to obtain accuracy in the portrayal of the White House.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;    Given the lack of enhancement of the Region 1 release, which appears to have resulted in almost universal (poor pun I know) condemnation of the transfer, and the inherent superiority of the PAL system, Region 4 again seems to be the better choice.


    Overall, this is a wonderful film for whiling away a couple of hours, and the DVD is most welcome as the VHS tape in our house has done some serious work. However, you may need a little time to adjust to the transfer presented, even though it is decidedly superior to a VHS tape.

    The overall video quality is good, but perhaps lacking a little bit of refinement.

    The audio quality is good, bearing in mind that this is a dialogue driven film.

    The extras were adequate, if not especially memorable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, September 04, 1999
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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