(Air Date: Week Of 12/18/96)
The most charitable one-word description of "My Fellow Americans", the new comedy starring Jack Lemmon & James Garner as two former Presidents of opposing parties running for their lives would be...hokey. Sad, but true, especially considering the talented cast of veterans that were assembled to breathe life into the dreary screenplay that represents the feature film debut of three television writers. I guess that would explain why we have to watch Lemmon and Garner trek all the way from Washington, D.C. to Ohio on the proverbial wild goose chase.
On television, we would flash to a title that would say TO BE CONTINUED and no one would mind, because you can always change the channel or make a telephone call or play with the cat instead...But in a theatre you're sort of...trapped, unless you wanna blow away a night at the movies & rent a real comedy on video starring Jack Lemmon or James Garner. If you like these two guys, you may be able to tune out the wretched script and enjoy these two master craftsmen at work, anyway. I couldn't. Also in the cast are Lauren Bacall, wasted as Lemmon's wife, the former First Lady, "Twin Peaks'" own Everett McGill as a psycho Secret Service agent, Wilfred Brimley as Garner's political crony, Esther Rolle as the White House cook and Dan Ackroyd and John Heard as the current President and his daft V.P. That represents something like 249 years onscreen experience. Who would YOU get to direct? Would a former television director named Peter (WHO?) Segal be on your short list? (Actually, Segal also directed Chris Farley in "Tommy Boy" and the last and weakest of the "Naked Gun" films and with those shimmering credentials, producer Jon Peters HAD to grab him before any other studio could NOT grab him, I guess.)
Judging from the cultural references, "My Fellow Americans" would have to be set at least fifteen years in the future, but the music, clothes, hairstyles and expressions all seem to be rooted in a 1996 consciousness that's pining for 1976. Or maybe the collective consciousness is pining for a "My Fellow Americans" television series that would supply its creators with continuous employment for the next four years. They have the President doll all ready ready for the mass market and frequent Pampers commercials on the small screen will relieve the need for a relentless product placement on the silver screen. That must be it!
Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan
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