My Fellow Americans (1996)
September 26, 2023 11:01 PM - Subscribe

Two former U. S. Presidents, hated rivals, join forces to expose the current, corrupt President at the risk of their lives.

Ex-presidents Kramer (Jack Lemmon) and Douglas (James Garner) have hated each other for years. But when the current administration of President Haney (Dan Aykroyd) -- Kramer's former vice president -- tries blaming a string of kickbacks from a defense contractor on the two former presidents, they band together. With Haney's goons trying to kill them, they set out across the country to try and clear their reputations. In the process, they see a side of America they never knew before.

Danielle Solzman: It’s very fascinating when one looks at the film through the lens of living during the Trump administration. The real kicker of course comes during the end of the film. While it’s certainly surprising, it’s not too much of a shocker to say the least. I say this after having watched Vice and seeing what those people are capable of. Granted, I wouldn’t dare to equivocate Dick Cheney with that of the bumbling Ted Matthews (John Heard). This isn’t to say that Matthews comes off as a Cheney type because some of him does. Maybe a mix of Cheney and Dan Quayle?

With the way we’ve seen former presidents work together, some of this film is certainly plausible. But even the scandals coming out of the White House, could something like this happen? I’d like to think that this could never be the case. But for the sake of art being art, it’s a fun comedy showing that two former presidents can have fun.

Russell Smith: The unapologetic silliness of this movie announces itself with an eye-rolling premise in which Lemmon and Garner are ex-presidents (and mortal political enemies) on the lam from rogue federal agents acting at the behest of evil forces directed by the current prez (Aykroyd). It's all a flimsy pretext to throw the two bickering old pols into a forced alliance and picaresque adventures involving lesbian bikers, Elvis imitators, illegal aliens, and sundry other heartland exotics. The political satire is often pretty sharp (lead screenwriter Peter Tolan won an Emmy for his work on TV's Murphy Brown), but it's of the calculatedly inoffensive “they're-all-bums/crooks/idiots” variety designed to unite the audience in mutual scorn of politicians rather than staking out any divisive partisan positions. In truth, the writing, acting, and direction all have a ragged, occasionally slapdash feel that may stem from director Segal's decision to keep the action fast and furious at all costs.

Alicia Potter: Imagine Jimmy Carter calling Gerald Ford (or just about anyone, for that matter) a "dickhead" and the moronic humor of this bomb about two ex-presidents should be abundantly clear. The witless buddy romp pairs Jack Lemmon as a cranky Republican cheapskate and James Garner as a denture-flashing Democratic letch out to expose a cover-up plot within the current administration. In a string of "ain't-that-America" scenarios, the on-the-run rivals clash with the common folk as the film attempts to underscore just how out-of-the-touch the executive branch is. The result is a predictable parade of exploited stereotypes, from drawling yokels to dykes on bikes.

posted by Carillon (5 comments total)
It's not bad, and parts are really funny. John Heard being the evil mastermind is a fun twist, but it really suffers from this bothsidesism that I guess was more feasible to believe in 96.
posted by Carillon at 3:20 PM on September 29, 2023

What I remember about this movie:

* how they were both making up lyrics to "Hail to the Chief"
* Lauren Bacall saying something about "go for the gold."
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:43 PM on September 30, 2023

posted by infinitewindow at 8:35 PM on October 1, 2023

"Hail to the chief, he's the chief and he needs haaaaaai-ling!"
posted by joelhunt at 6:18 AM on October 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

Hail to the chief, if you don’t I’ll have to kill you
I am the chief, so you better watch your step, you bastards

this wouldn’t have worked with Walter Matthau but damn it would have been nice to see Lemmon & Matthau onscreen in something like this that wasn’t a Grumpy retread or an Odd retread one last time.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:28 PM on October 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

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