Americathon (1979) Poster


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SO weird, all this nonsense on 1979 its turning true on 2011
juancarlosadex5 August 2011
From WIKI: Since the storyline was set 20 years into the future, several satirical forecasts were made, nearly all of which, amazingly, have since come true:

The People's Republic of China embracing capitalism and becoming a global economic superpower.

Cliques of Native Americans becoming wealthy (although in reality much of their wealth would come from the gaming industry, mostly from tribal casinos).

Nike becoming a huge multinational conglomerate (In 1979, their "Tailwind" running shoe was just starting to gain popularity).

Vietnam becoming a major tourist attraction among Asia's wealthy and powerful (this was also predicted in Back To The Future Part II, as seen on billboards and on TV commercials, with the airline that takes most Americans there being US Air).

The continued existence and popularity of The Beach Boys in 1998.

The collapse of the USSR.

The depletion of US crude oil production, which, according to Hubbert's Peak theory, was already underway for several years at the time the film was made (Hubbert estimated in 1956 that the year of peak oil extraction in the United States would be 1970.).

Jogging suits becoming fashionable as "casual wear".

Reality television reaching absurd limits. (The telethon includes a boxing match between a mother and son. The son is played by Jay Leno.).

An America with a devalued dollar and heavily in debt to foreign lenders.

Network television dealing with previously taboo subjects accepted as normal. (Monty Rushmore stars in the sit-com, "Both Father and Mother", and plays a cross-dressing single father in the titular role. The film's narrative also mentions "The Schlong Show", a game show where contestants are judged by their reproductive organs.)

Smoking being banned.

A great increase in homelessness (Homelessness began to greatly increase in major U.S. cities during the recession of 1982 and the simultaneous cutting of the Section 8 program by the Reagan Administration).
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Rent It
tmsindc-220 May 2001
Do not watch this movie on television. Rent it! The jokes are too fast and too subtle to get in a single viewing with commerical interruptions and no ability to rewind and double-check a gag. Like the orginal "Airplane" the funniest parts of the movie take place in the background. If you blink or miss a phrase, then you will miss the joke.

For example by 1998:

Japan defeated and annexed the Soviet Union in nuclear war;

Britain became America's 42nd State;

the monarch formerly known as Prince Charles is the host at an amusement park called "Limeyland"

Isreal and Egypt (?) Saudi Arabia (?) are conspiring to rule the world; and

NIKE stands for "National Indian Knitting Enterprises"

In short, rent this movie but be quick with the rewind button.....
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What if Jerry Brown had become President and Linda Ronstadt "First Girlfriend?"
sandiego-419 April 2001
Time capsule of 1970's California life-style...or where it seemed to be headed in the next decade. In the opening we see the residents of California living in permanently parked cars and commuting to work via various bicycles, skateboards, and people-powered scooters. John Ritter plays President Chet Roosevelt, a thinly veiled spoof of then California governor and presidential hopeful Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown (he dated roller skating rock star Linda Ronstadt and slept on a futon). This movie asks the question, what if Jerry became president and Linda the "First Girlfriend?" John Ritter's real life wife Nancy Morgan plays Lucy Beth, President Chet's roller-skating girlfriend. In the eighties the United States is broke and the President decides to throw a telethon on television to raise money. At the time this film was made, most television markets had no more than a few stations and watching Jerry Lewis struggle to keep awake during the MDA telethon was an interesting phenomena. Here Harvey Korman hosts an endless list of bad acts that foreshadows the humor of SCTV. Most of the humor here would be lost on anyone too young to remember the 70's or for those who don't really want to remember. Though the film takes place in the "future" eighties, for campy fun Americathon is an interesting time-capsule of the issues ripe for spoofing at the time.
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It Was Something Different For One Great Actor
parkerr8630210 May 2008
AMERICATHON is not a great movie, but it is not as bad as many have said. I really can add nothing to existing reviews, but I wish to point out a couple of things you may not have realized.

The always fine Canadian Indian actor Chief Dan George plays a wealthy businessman in the film. This was the ONLY film he ever made that did not trade on his typecasting as an elderly Indian. He actually got to do something different---pity it was not in a better film.

The great actor John Carradine filmed a brief scene as a drunken Uncle Sam, which ended up on the cutting room floor, sadly for Carradine fans.
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Where's the DVD?
mgconlan22 May 2005
This is a move that has never got the respect it deserves. I loved it the first time I saw it — its creators were previously involved in the Firesign Theatre comedy troupe and they brought the same envelope-pushing irreverent spirit to it that they had to their great records — and ever since I've never forgiven the critics for savaging it on its initial release. It's the late John Ritter's finest big-screen performance, it contains the last truly great song recorded by the original Beach Boys, Elvis Costello's music video is an added bonus, and though some of the satire is a bit dated, much of it — particularly the idea of how drastically life in this country will change when we inevitably run out of oil — holds up beautifully. I haven't seen this in years but I wanted to post this to defend this marvelous film and demand a DVD release pronto. (Put me down as mgconlan from Tijuana Heights.)
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Watch Meatloaf Battle A Car
Greg Bulmash17 March 1999
It's 1998, America is out of gas both literally and figuratively. People live in permanently parked cars, walking, jogging and biking to work.

When a Native American billionaire who loaned money to the government to cover the national debt threatens to foreclose on the nation, a telethon is held to raise the money to save the country.

An early work from Neal Israel, the man who would later create such classics as the *original* "Police Academy" and "Real Genius," the movie brims with humorous high-concept jokes. For example, in schemes to raise money, San Diego is sold to Mexico and a daredevil (played by Meatloaf) battles a car.

Aside from the comedy, there's a great soundtrack with songs by the Beach Boys and Elvis Costello (who makes a cameo appearance). One of my favorite films of the late 70's, this is a great addition to anyone's video collection.
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Give us all your gold!
ftw42010 April 2005
If you like the wacky comedy of John Ritter of Harvey Korman, this is the movie for you. This film has a star-studded cast that can only be rivaled by an episode of "The Love Boat"! Such stars as Fred Willard (Roseanne, Fernwood2Nite), Meat Loaf (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Elvis Costello and the irrepressible George Carlin as the narrator contribute to this movie's legacy. See how the world has decided the peace is better than war. See if the leaders of the powerful "Hebrab Republic" can stop looking at blondes long enough to buy the US. Vietnam as SE Asia's "French Riviera" (what a prediction!) Show you patriotism and see if President Roosevelt's idea can save the US (minus San Diego)!
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"You've just caught America at a bad time."
Scott LeBrun5 July 2016
It's the "future" year of 1998. There is a worldwide oil shortage, and the U.S. of A. has bankrupted itself. The nation is DEEPLY in debt to an Indian billionaire, Sam Birdwater (Chief Dan George), and now he'd like to have his money back. The youthful President, Chet Roosevelt (ever likable John Ritter) hires a media specialist, Eric McMerkin (Peter Riegert), who comes up with a genius idea. The idea is a 30 day telethon devised to get the people of the nation to cough up the dough. But there's a plot by one of the characters to undermine the whole thing, in part by coming up with the lamest acts imaginable.

"Americathon" was an okay movie for this viewer, nothing more. It takes an "Airplane!" / "Naked Gun" approach to its comedy, with lots of detail filling the frame. As co-written (based on the play by Firesign Theatre veterans Phillip Proctor and Peter Bergman) and directed by Neal Israel ("Bachelor Party"), it does have its moments. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes not so much. It has a LOT of energy, but it's a lot of energy spent on a script that isn't that great. Still, as other reviewers have pointed out, it does earn some points for being prophetic with some of its political / social / pop culture gags. It's like Paddy Chayefsky's / Sidney Lumet's "Network" in that way (or, for that matter, "Class of 1984"): while some of the material might have seemed far out at the time, it was predicted with some accuracy.

The actors easily give it 100%, in particular Harvey Korman as the drug addicted emcee of the event, and Zane Buzby as a highly theatrical Vietnamese "puke rocker". Fred Willard, Richard Schaal, and Nancy Morgan (Ritters' wife at the time) co-star, with cameo roles for the likes of Meat Loaf, Elvis Costello, Tommy Lasorda, Jay Leno, Peter Marshall, Allan Arbus, and David Opatoshu. The narration is hilariously spoken by George Carlin.

"Americathon" does offer some fun, and at the least is over fairly quickly.

Six out of 10.
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Harbinger of doom!
udar554 June 2006
I will give the film points for being extremely prescient. The year is 1998. The world is completely out of oil and America is deep in debt thanks to dimwit President Chet Roosevelt (Ritter) who was elected by a TV worshiping public merely because of the family name. Sound familiar? Scary! Anyway, Chet and media specialist Riegert decide to hold a 30 day telethon to save America (home to the first gay state North Dakota!). To host it they choose washed up actor Monty Rushmore (Korman), who is now the pill popping star of a cross dressing sitcom called "Both Mother and Father." But sneaky Presidential aide Vincent Vanderhoff (Willard) wants this to fail so the Hebarabs (the Jews and Arabs have joined forces) can take over America. His plan? Booking only ventriloquist acts. Whew!

Wow, how can a film starring Peter Riegert, Harvey Korman, Fred Willard and John Ritter be so painfully unfunny? I only laughed once during this futuristic comedy (at a joke involving Peter Marshall!). Director Neal Israel really blows it here. He has no idea how to set up a proper sight gag and everyone seems so subdued. The whole time I kept thinking how much better it would be if Mel Brooks had directed it. The only lively performance is by Zane Busby as Vietnamese "puke rock" sensation Mouling Jackson. Bizarre cameos include Meat Loaf, Elvis Costello and Jay Leno.
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Very funny and ahead of its time 70's comedy blast
Woodyanders7 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
America in the future of 1998 has become bankrupt and owes a huge debt to other nations it has borrowed money from, so a telethon is held to prevent the country from being repossessed by wealthy Native Americans.

Director Neal Israel, who also co-wrote the witty and uncannily prescient script with Michael Mislove and Monica Johnson, maintains a zany tone and snappy pace throughout. Moreover, it's acted with zest by an enthusiastic cast, with especially lively contributions from Peter Riegert as shrewd media expert Eric McMerkin, Nancy Morgan as the perky Lucy Beth, Fred Willard as backstabbing aide Vincent Vanderhoff, Chief Dan George as easygoing billionaire Sam Birdwater, and Richard Schaal as bumbling bodyguard Jerry. However, it's the incredibly accurate way in which this film predicts many things that in some way or another have come to pass that in turn makes this movie such a gut-busting riot: Laid-back skirt-chasing President Chet Roosevelt (the always solid and likable John Ritter) prefigures both Bill Clinton with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and George W. Bush riding his father's coattails into the oval office, arrogant washed-up emcee Monty Rushmore (a terrifically pompous portrayal by Harvey Korman) starring in a hit sitcom as a cross-dressing character brings to mind the huge success of "Mrs. Doubtfire" in the 1990's and Bruce Jenner turning into Caitlyn Jenner, plus his addiction to pills ties in with manic depressives being prescribed Prozac by psychiatrists in that same decade; dare devil Rudy Budnitz (rocker Meat Loaf) versus the car registers as the sort of reckless thing that's par for the course on an average episode of "Jackass," Zane Buzby's crazy puke rock act serves as an ideal prototype for Lady Gaga's more outrageous "look at me!" attention-seeking stunts (meat dress, anyone?), and Jay Leno fighting his mother in a boxing ring brings to mind all those ghastly trash talk shows that frequently have family members getting into fierce shouting matches that sometimes devolve into the downright ugly and physical. In addition, there's the collapse of the Soviet Union, the American dollar losing a significant amount of its value, Native Americans regaining ownership of the country through becoming rich and powerful (this basically happened with Native Americans amassing a fortune in the gaming industry with all the casinos they own and operate), smoking has been outlawed, an ISIS-type Middle East terrorist organization that tries to stop the telethon through violent means (yep, there's some parallel to 9/11 here as well), and even Donald Trump's worst nightmare coming true with San Diego being purchased by the Mexicans (!). A total hoot that's lost precious little of its timeless and topicality.
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Did Bill Clinton take lessons from John Ritter?
rlcsljo3 August 2002
Although the politics of this film is firmly rooted in the seventies, the sexuality is firmly rooted in the nineties. Bill Clinton was supposedly a knock off of Jack Kennedy, but he seems to have taken more lessons for John Ritter in this movie.

The mistress, the sleazy show business connections and scandals. This movie is almost scary.
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Long, long ago...
PsyDtoBe2 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I honestly haven't seen this movie since about 1980. However, back then, when Showtime was new, they played 2 movies-this one and Grease. So, being about 10 years old and fascinated with the idea of watching a new movie on TV, I watched both of them more times than I can count. I remember that the powerful man to whom the U.S. owed so much money was the president of the National Indian Knitting Enterprises. (put those initials together for a chuckle.) Some of the music was good. Cameos included Meatloaf, Elvis Costello and a theme song by the Beach Boys. I've got the soundtrack, found about 15 years ago in a used record store. If this came out on DVD I might just buy it for the nostalgia value.
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A classic of the late 70's-great political satire
mickster-221 November 1999
What a classic film-all the camp of the late 70's combined with sharp biting satire. 20 Years later(!) I realize how good a film this actually is. John Ritter as president-hilarious.

I think you see the shapings of Police Academy (original) and Real Genius.

Plus any movie with Elvis Costello (see Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me for reference) is a great movie.
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Funny and Scary Realistic(Plot Review)
jaylandry15 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
It is a bit lame and unbelievable in spots. But, like another gem, Idiocracy, hits home on many points.

The lack of oil, growing debt and generally unstable, yet bizarre, world make for an entertaining look at our Dystopic future. A good companion piece is "The Eighties, A look back", written with great sarcasm in 1979 by Tony Hendra and contributors as wide ranging from Jeff Greenfield and Valerie Curtain to Abbie Hoffman and Harry Shearer.

The movie drags in spots, but gems pop out, from "Both Mother and Father" to the acerbic narration of George Carlin. Add a Beach Boys theme and a pretty tight ending, it's a solid entertainment value. Plus, like Idiocracy, you will point to the TV and recognize things that are happening now.
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Cast is game...script and direction is lame
merklekranz27 September 2007
Somewhere in "Americathon" there is a great movie that has been buried in mediocrity. The unbelievably clever idea of a national telethon to save the country from bankruptcy could have been turned into a classic comedy. Unfortunately a phenomenal cast is mostly wasted by the cartoon-like script. This leaves the viewer feeling cheated, because what you get is not quite a musical with some comedy, nor is it a comedy with some music. High in concept but dull on delivery, "Americathon" is just too lame. The only real highlights are Jay Leno's prizefight with his mother, Zane Busby's interaction with John Ritter, and the Beach Boys song that opens and closes the film. What "Americathon" needed was a director like Paul Bartel. Paul Bartel was willing to take chances (see "Eating Raoul") Neil Israel played it way too close to the vest and lost. - MERK
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Geez, man! It's not _that_ bad!...
rzajac29 May 2015
At the very least, it can be said that Americathon is a labor of love, turning decent comic professionalism to the holy cause channeling the incomparable humor of Peter Bergman!

And I don't use the word "incomparable" lightly. Bergman (RIP) was a rare and gifted man. Read up on him on Wikipedia... and Firesign heads already know what I'm talking about.

Sure, it's cheezy. But it's self aware in its cheese. The film knows what it wants, and it exerts itself mightily to get it. For the life of me, I can't think why it gets such low marks on IMDb: It's worth at least a 7, for its "period" value, if nothing else.

Check it out.
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The lowest of Low
jtpaladin22 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There was nothing funny about this nonsense. The writers try and make everything so very different in the year 1998 that they include N. Dakota as a gay state. They make Arabs and Jews conspire to own the U.S. (well, actually that one was right on target), and are close friends. The American Indians have enough money to save us from bankruptcy. Considering that Indian casinos bring in billions every year, that may become a reality.

The jokes suck. The acting is awful. Ritter should have been ashamed to take any part in this trash. It's insulting and utterly stupid. This is the best they could do?
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