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Starring Jack Lemmon, James Garner, and Dan Aykroyd
Directed by Peter Segal
Within the first five minutes of My Fellow Americans, a President is elected, then defeated, then sees his former Vice-President defeat the incumbent. It's a wonderful set up, as the Republican, Russell Kramer (Jack Lemmon), detests the Democrat, Matthew Douglas (James Garner), and the sitting President is the crooked William Haney (Dan Aykroyd).
Lemmon knows the value of the ex-Presidency. In his four years out of office, he's written four books and taken huge sums to endorse a Japanese insurance company. This is a man who is so tight with a dollar, in his pocket cash money generates interest. On the other hand, Garner, like most Democrats, is more likely to be found in bed with a blonde. And Aykroyd, who knows crooked 'cuz he did a mean Nixon during his years on Saturday Night Live, conspires to frame Lemmon when it appears an old kickback is about to come to light.
Finally there is Vice-President Ted Matthews (John Heard), a man so dopey he makes Dan Quayle look good.
In short order there is a murder which, if the screenwriter had chosen to go this route, could have been associated with and thus pinned on either Prez. But he doesn't, choosing instead to shanghai both men under Presidential order to attend a meeting at Camp David. Without giving the particulars away, let's just say they never get there.
Thus, we have an Odd Couple of Presidents (if you will) left to fend for themselves in the middle of nowhere, helping each other seek evidence to prove Lemmon innocent.
My Fellow Americans is the kind of film that runs smoothly as long as its script and director keep focused on what it is supposed to be. Which is an Odd Couple of Presidents. The repartee between Garner and Lemmon is sharp and funny, and at times crude and not necessarily in good taste.
But it stops dead in its tracks when it tries to get socially relevant, introducing a situation which affects the men only tangentially, and not for long. Then it shifts over to a bunch of gay jokes which may or may not be in bad taste -- if any readers out there think so, please let me know. I have no touchstone for this, other than to report that I and the audience I sat with found the gags funny, but an awkward way to set up the finale of the flick.
Let me see if I forgot anything else. Oh yeah, Lauren Bacall plays a First Lady whose mouth runs as foul as any man's. Marg Helgenberger (as the blonde) looks good, and Sela Ward gets the whole thing rolling before she vanishes into the mist. Just thought you should know.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to My Fellow Americans, he would have paid . . .
Rent it. Once you get past Bacall, skip to the Garner-Lemmon scenes and have fun.
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