"Dig it, Ms. Wade: You're the President's Girlfriend!"
Let me just say that the weirdness of seeing Martin Sheen as anybody but POTUS in a film about the White House, after two seasons of recapping The West Wing, is not to be underestimated. I know I'm not the first viewer of this film to comment on it and I certainly won't be the last, nor will I belabour it now. But I do feel the need to state that, as far as I am concerned, Martin Sheen makes the best fictional POTUS ever, and I do not expect his achievement in this area to be surpassed by anyone -- and certainly not by the likes of Michael Douglas, of whom I am, let's just say, not a fan. So in some ways, while this is a very enjoyable film, recapping it is going to have its excruciating aspects for me. You could show a little appreciation, you know?
One more note: While I usually try to recap "classic" episodes of current shows as if I were writing the recap at the original broadcast (i.e. without the knowledge of the events of that transpire later), I found that that approach simply didn't fly here, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this film is basically a blueprint for the television series, even though it was probably never intended as such. Many roles, lines and situations from the film are reused or recycled or refashioned by Sorkin in the television series -- and I think that's fine, but again, after two years in the The West Wing trenches, it's impossible to ignore, or to avoid the obvious comparisons.
On with the show...
The credits are filled with shots of White House doodads and American government paraphernalia: busts and paintings of presidents, carved eagles, antique furniture, books by past POTUSes, flags and emblems, Presidential china, etc. The music is that very West Wing-y, "Pomp-and-Circumstance"-ish type of stuff that's meant to get the glorious love of country swelling in our breasts. However, the music was not done by W.G. "Snuffy" Walden, who does the music for the series, but Marc Shaiman, of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut fame. The guy definitely shows range. (Shaiman also did the music for Sorkin's A Few Good Men.)
We get a shot of the White House on a sunny, late-fall/early winter morning. Inside, a Secret Service agent tells his shirt cuff, "Liberty's moving." President Andrew Benjamin Shepherd (Hmm...where have I seen those initials?), played by Michael Douglas, strides purposefully into a corridor accompanied by his young assistant, Janie (played by Samantha Mathis), who informs him, "The 10:15 event's been moved inside to the Indian Treaty Room." Shepherd asks, "The 10:15 is American Fisheries?" Janie replies, "Yes, sir. They're giving you a 200-pound halibut." Shepherd: "Janie, make a note. We need to schedule more events where somebody gives me a really big fish." She duly notes this. Shepherd: "Janie, I'm kidding." She appears highly efficient and somewhat humourless and has her hair cut fairly similarly to mine. So far, I like her. She's also dressed in a suit not unlike the ones I used to wear when I worked in an office, and was expected to appear for work in something other than athletic pants, one of my husband's old fraternity or engineering t-shirts, and sloppy hair. (How much do I love working at home? So much.) ["Prof. Frink was in a frat? I never would have guessed that in a million years." -- Wing Chun]