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George C. Scott,
Trish Van Devere,
1980's "First Family" gives us a glimpse of a comedy classic with the immortal deadpan of Bob Newhart cast, for the only time in his career, as the President of the United States. After "Heaven Can Wait," this was the only other directorial effort from writer Buck Henry, definitely in Mel Brooks mode. It's no surprise that Democrats hate films like this, skewering left wing politics as deftly as "Serial" took aim at Marin County liberals (one reviewer actually wished it had been done during the Reagan years, but as "Used Cars" showed, the Carter administration was perfect fodder for laughs). The first half is a constant joy, with Madeline Kahn as the First Lady, Gilda Radner (in her first major movie role) as her horny daughter, still a virgin at 28, whose attempts to escape from captivity are forever foiled. Richard Benjamin as the Press Secretary ('can I leak something?' 'can I confirm something?' 'can I deny something?') is bettered by Bob Dishy as the Biden-like Vice President ('looks like a rock!'). Fred Willard and Harvey Korman also earn their share of laughs, especially Korman's encounter with the African Ambassador Longo, who speaks no English (Julius W. Harris, "Live and Let Die"). But above it all, is Newhart's President Manfred Link, who puts the Vice President in his place: 'does anyone care what a Vice President thinks?' He meets his match with President Kalundra of Upper Gorm (John Hancock), when he asks, 'which one of them is the head boogeyman?' to which Kalundra responds, 'which one of you is the chief turkey?' Perhaps the best moments are the airport greeting for Ambassador Longo, and the scene depicting alerts in case of nuclear attack ('too frivolous?'). The satire is done with broad strokes, and the second half does slow to a weak conclusion, but there's enough belly laughs for those who don't let their politics get in the way of a good time. And there's the President's recollection that he flunked two years of high school Spanish: 'my God, even Mexicans know how to speak Spanish!'
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