Stars: Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Michael J. Fox, Martin Sheen, Samantha Mathis, Richard Dreyfuss. Directed by Rob Reiner. Rated PG-13 for adult situations, profanity.

Finally, a romantic adult drama that's also thoughtful. Rob Reiner's "The American President" hits just the right note as it shifts effortlessly between humor and emotion. Perpetually entertaining, the film mines its premise of a bachelor president dating while in office, and hits paydirt.

The President of the United States (Michael Douglas) needs an escort to a state function and invites a novice environmental lobbyist (Annette Bening) to accompany him. Although flustered at first, she eventually agrees and the inevitable sparks fly. Before their romantic entanglement, the president promises her support for an environmental bill if she can sway 24 congressmen. Working under pressure to sway a similar number of congressmen to his own crime bill, the president finds his own agenda in conflict with that of his new lady love. With his popularity rating in stiff decline, he finds himself at the business end of a smear campaign launched by a presidential hopeful (Richard Dreyfuss) from the opposing political party.

With subject matter as timely as it is absorbing, parts of "The American President" seem lifted out of today's news. Michael Douglas does a superb job playing the Commander in Chief while Annette Bening, no slouch herself, is absolutely radiant as the First Girlfriend. Without hesitation, I proclaim this movie as one of the year's very best.

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