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Movie Review

My Fellow Americans

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Rated PG-13 for salty language and innuendo. 1 hour, 41 minutes.
Publication date: Dec. 20, 1996
Review by Jim Shelby
Released: (1996)

It's a buddy film. It's a conspiracy thriller. It's a political parody. What it isn't is a particularly funny movie, and Jack Lemmon and James Garner's carping, whiny relationship as rival ex-presidents doesn't make for very joyous holiday fare.

Political opponents for 30 years, Russell Kramer (Lemmon) and Matt Douglas (Garner) spent consecutive undistinguished terms in the White House. We see them in their declining years, busily selling off what lustre remains of the presidential office: Kramer pushing his cookbook and Japanese insurance companies, Douglas using his status as a former head of the free world to get girls.

When current president Heaney (played indifferently by Dan Aykroyd) is accused of taking kickbacks from a defense contractor, he hatches a plan with his chief of staff to blame it all on former president Kramer. Douglas, trying to sink Kramer with the story, gets mired in the plot when they both emerge as targets in the president's cover-up after the contractor gets rubbed out. Off they flee to Ohio in search of exonerating evidence, pursued by sinister NSA agents with orders to capture and kill.

Former commanders-in-chief on the run! Much of the movie consists of ordinary people's jaws dropping as they realize they just sold doughnuts to two ex-presidents. One fun moment occurs when a nice down-on-their-luck family of campers is interrupted by the presidents, who first wow them with their majesty then proceed to appropriate their beat-up station wagon.

Jack Lemmon looks ex-presidential--old and a bit shrunken--but his exuberance for film-acting still comes through even in this creaky vehicle. Though his trademark stutter/double-take seems forced, it evokes fond memories of some of his past comic gems. Lauren Bacall as his wife is wasted here. Her amazing voice is deeper than anyone else's in the film (or in Hollywood), and she still manages to thrill with her delivery of the few lines she has.

Like the campaign bluster it caricatures, this film is filled with plenty of hot air and dotted with populist wisdom cynically inserted to win votes from the heartland. Should be seen by hardened Lemmon and Garner fans only.

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