Kramer and Douglas, two former presidents from opposite ends of the political spectrum, become reluctant allies when they become the target of a conspirator in President Haney's administration. The two ex-presidents realize they have an enemy within the government and set out to find evidence that will clear their names. The search takes them across the Southern Appalachians; along the way they meet a homeless couple, thwart kidnapers in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, and find themselves marching in a gay pride parade. Written by
Dennis Lewis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When they are at President Kramer's house, his grandson wants President Kramer to play with him. President Kramer takes the boy's toy gun, holds it over his eyes, counts 100, 99, 98 then throws the gun on the sofa. He never picks it up, buy later has it in his pocket on the airplane. See more »
It has been described as one of the most vicious presidential races in the history of American politics, and one of the closest. The Republican nominee, Senator Russell P Kramer of Ohio, is practically dead even in the polls with his bitter rival, Democratic Governor Matt Douglas of Indiana. To say there is no love lost between these two candidates is a gross understatement. And yet tonight, in spite of their almost overwhelming distaste for each other, one of these men will have ...
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Peter Segal's My Fellow Americans, a kind and genial little film, has coined the term "Grumpy Old Presidents' over time with good reason. Had Walter Mathau been cast in the role of Democratic Governor Matt Douglas and not James Garner, we would've been calling this "Grumpiest Old Men," as if it were a sequel to the inspired comedies Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau made in the mid-nineties.
But I digress. This is an equally inspired comedy, that knows its tone, knows its audience, and makes good use of its entire cast, especially its lead, Lemmon and Garner, who are unbelievably charismatic together as two bitter political rivals that have proudly clung to this white collar, boyhood way of fighting for decades now. Lemmon plays Republican Senator Russell Kramer and Garner is Democratic Governor Matt Douglas, who have both endured four years in office, first being Kramer defeating Douglas, and then four years later, vice-versa. Now incumbent Douglas has been defeated by former vice president William Haney (Dan Aykroyd) and his vice president Ted Matthews (John Heard). Up to speed? The last few years have been quite quiet for Kramer, who has been publishing books left and right and speaking at various schools and even for insurance companies. Douglas has endured a rougher road, working on publishing a book that is a sub-par effort according to his editor and is in the mix of a long divorce battle. On a plane to a funeral at Air Force One for a fallen Republican, the two men quibble all throughout the plane-ride and cement the fact to us why they have been bitter rivals for so many long years.
When a serious scandal goes on that a man by the name of Charlie Reynolds (James Rebhorn) offered current president Haney kickbacks when he was a vice president, the Democratic Party plots to frame Kramer. But when Charlies is assassinated and Kramer and Douglas are put on a helicopter allegedly headed for Camp David under the order of Haney, but shipped into the middle of nowhere, the two cantankerous old presidents must learn to get along and attempt to stop the kickback scandal currently at hand in the White House.
It's easy to say this film is never boring. What impressed me immediately was how dialog-driven and event-assisted this film became during the middle of its first act and how it never ceased to become lengthy and ponderous. The film uses its two men not as fiery weapons, but as human characters as they try in work through an incomprehensible situation paired with someone they are not fond of. The film continues to throw in different little twists, to keep its slender plot interesting, and never do they seem obligatory and forced. They are all little pieces attributing to the larger conflict at hand and all come to a close nicely.
Writers E. Jack Kaplan, Richard Chapman, and Peter Tolan are too concerned with infusing satire into this material rather than have the characters remain presidential archetypes. Had they not gone for a more satirical effort, depicting corruption in the White House, brutal honest among elected officials, and widely different outlooks on both characters all attempting to cater to the same goal, this could've been a relatively strained, dull, unimportant effort. Yet largely because of the way the film injects little humorous quirks that make both Republicans and Democrats tick is the reason for My Fellow Americans' success as a film and as a whole.
One could argue the film plays it too safe for a comedy directed at satirizing and lampooning American politics. I agree; the film relatively works in an inconsequential light and its prime goal isn't to offend or promote further hatred to one side or the other. But this could work in part of its success too, since we're so accustomed to each side bitterly debating with each other and the almost deliberate and apparent contention each side holds with one another that maybe a "safe" satire on politics is kind of what we need. A fun, free-spirited kind of take on the issue. It doesn't need to be completely offensive, and the film isn't always as safe as it would appear. Yet in the long run, Republicans shouldn't be too offended at the jabs at their stinginess and Democrats shouldn't be offended at the punches at their free use of money.
My Fellow Americans is written efficiently and played nicely by its three writers and directed with a nice loose grip by Peter Segal, who too directed the joyously fun, quick-witted comedy that was Tommy Boy, that emphasized on the snappy worldplay that this project heavily relies on. Both films work well in the same fields, giving us two likable main characters, two talented screen-performers, an easily-digestible script, competent writing, solid direction, and overall, a cheeriness about a subject that we need and should cherish in current times. The whole exercise works on its own merits and that could be the reason you like or dislike this film as a whole.
Starring: Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Dan Aykroyd, and John Heard. Directed by: Peter Segal.
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