PRIMARY COLORS

Stars: John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Adrian Lester, Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Maura Tierney, Larry Harman, Diane Ladd. Written by Elaine May. Directed by Mike Nichols. Rated R for strong language and sexual references.

"Primary Colors" is a very thinly-veiled satire of the Clinton presidency with a made-up, drawling John Travolta standing in for the leader of the free world. Although the film purports to present a primary race, anything and everything in it applies equally to events that occurred once William Jefferson Clinton took office. There are the prerequisite sex scandals as well as rampant pandering and dirty politics. Even Emma Thompson as the candidateís wife pulls off a credible Hillary.

The problem with the film, though, is that it lacks focus. Whether its aim is to present Bill as a savvy politician, an honest man-of-the-people, a "Slick Willy" con-man, or a lesser of evils, changes from one scene to the next. This makes the film feel particularly disjointed and damages its satirical value. "Primary Colors" is an even greater misfire than the recent "Wag the Dog". For a better, though admittedly light-hearted, look at the presidency, return to Rob Reinerís "The American President".


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