Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Peter Segal
Stars: James Garner, Jack Lemmon, Dan Aykroyd, Everett McGill, John Heard, Lauren Bacall, Wilford Brimley, Brad Whitford, Sela Ward, Marg Helgenberger, Jeff Yeager

Two former American Presidents, bitter rivals from opposite ends of the political spectrum, are thrown together as reluctant allies when they probe a trail of corruption and official cover-up that leads right to the heart of the Oval Office itself. Although it is five years since he left the White House, Russell Kramer (Jack Lemmon) maintains a high profile through public appearances and lucrative sponsorship deals that capitalise on his image and, more importantly, keep his name in the media spotlight. The womanising former President Matt Douglas (James Garner) is more cynical about the power he once had and has maintained a lower profile since leaving office. An old kickback scandal involving incumbent President Haney (Dan Aykroyd), Kramer’s former VP, surfaces and threatens to become messy. The corrupt Haney and his minders decide to shift the blame onto the innocent Kramer, letting him take the fall. But Kramer and Douglas, who are probing the rumoured kickback from different angles, finally meet up and discover the truth.

Reluctantly forced to work together to expose Haney, they find themselves hunted by NSA hitmen, under the control of the zealous White House Security chief (Everett McGill), who believes that it is better if the pair are eliminated. Car chases and narrow escapes are the order of the day as Kramer and Douglas evade assassins during a frantic cross country race against time. These two grumpy old ex-presidents make for a decidedly odd couple as they trade acerbic insults and barbs, but they also eventually come to realise that they have a lot more in common than they would probably care to admit. During their narrow escapes they also come to understand the harsh consequences of some of their decisions, and realise that, like most politicians, they became more absorbed in their own power and ego and ultimately lost touch with the electorate at large. The pair come to question their own effectiveness as politicians, and acknowledge that they probably betrayed the trust and responsibilities of their office.

Like Dave and The Distinguished Gentleman and similar comedies set against the colourful background of Washington DC, My Fellow Americans takes a cynical look at the institutions of government, the machinations of politics, and the foibles of politicians. Despite wonderful moments of sly humour and plenty of pointed barbs directed at some rather obvious targets, the script from co-writer Peter Tolan (whose credits include Murphy Brown and The Larry Sanders Show), My Fellow Americans squanders numerous opportunities to take a scalpel to American politics and savagely prick the pretensions of politicians, and their sycophantic legion of minders and devious advisors. Garner and Lemmon are perfect in roles seemingly written especially with them in mind, and they throw themselves into the spiteful banter with an enthusiasm that lifts the material. Garner is his familiar laconic, laid back and smooth-talking self, while Lemmon goes for a more frantic level of urgency, creating a wonderful contrast of styles. Director Peter Segal (the recent Tommy Boy, etc) has assembled an impressive supporting cast to flesh out the peripheral characters, although Lauren Bacall is completely wasted in a thankless role as Kramer’s wife. John Heard (Home Alone, etc) has some very funny moments as an inane and hapless VP with an unfortunate penchant for saying the wrong thing, a character rather obviously modelled on former Vice President Dan Quayle. Segal maintains a solid pace throughout, but unfortunately My Fellow Americans is ultimately little more than a routine and formulaic comedy thriller populated with stock characters, and it largely relies on the charisma and presence of its two stars to carry it. There are some wonderfully funny moments throughout, but ultimately, not enough to make the film especially memorable.




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