My Fellow Americans (1996)
When it comes to comedy, nothing works better than a couple of “old” pros who know the genre. We get just that when Jack Lemmon and James Garner begrudgingly join forces as ex presidents. They’re on the run from political assassins while at the same time looking to expose the current powers in the oval office of some underhanded deeds.
The film sets itself up quite nicely over the opening scenes as we are taken through a history lesson of Lemmon and Garner going head to head in presidential races with each one besting the other for their 4 year term as the head of the United States. Now that they are out of office, Lemmon will take any paying gig while Garner longs for the days when beautiful women were easier to come by.
I enjoyed this film when it first came out and I found it just as much fun last night. Lemmon was going through his renaissance period with the Walter Matthau comedies and it’s easy to see that the Garner role was intended for Walter here as well. Although it’s hard to say if the film would have been better with another Lemmon – Matthau teaming, that would be unfair to Garner who delivers a fun, mean spirited performance when pointed in Lemmon’s direction. The cheap shots directed at former real life presidents adds to the fun and nostalgia as well.
Between the bickering and insults directed at each other they get to see life on the road and how they are viewed amongst the “little folk” in rural America. This of course makes them realize that perhaps they didn’t do more than they should have while in office. Just enough to get by. It’s this new outlook that propels them forward to duck Everett McGill and his army of hit men to storm the Whitehouse and expose Aykroyd and company.
Rounding out the cast we have Lauren Bacall as Lemmon’s former First Lady as well as one of those character actors I love to champion, Wilford Brimley.
The recently deceased James Rebhorn turns up in a key role as well that helps to move the plot forward thus setting off our presidential journey.
Comedy director Peter Segal lets our two pros shine here without getting in their way. The only flaw that is a distraction is a poorly done horse chase where Jack and James are poorly sketched in with an early form of CGI. (CGI, no comment……ah, why not. whatever happened to the days of a real car chases like in The French Connection!)
Segal has done a few of these comedies pitting two antagonists against each other including Anger Management and the recently released Grudge Match.
Fans of Garner and Lemmon should have already checked this out and so should you for a fun night on the couch laughing with friends and a loved one.