My Fellow Americans: A Presidential Comedy

James Garner and Jack Lemmon in My Fellow Americans. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

My Fellow Americans sees a pair of former presidents on the run when the current administration attempts to cover up previous bribes.

Both Jack Lemmon and James Garner have the required chemistry for this presidential buddy comedy.  Even though Lemmon’s sparring partner, Walter Matthau, couldn’t do the project because of health reasons, we’re still able to have a fun time.  With the accent that Dan Aykroyd gives to his William Haney, the Canadian actor has us truly believing he’s from Texas.

Former Indiana Senator Russell Kramer (Jack Lemmon) defeated Ohio Governor Matt Douglas (James Garner) in their first race for the White House.  Four years later, Douglas takes the win.  Another four years after that, Douglas loses to Kramer’s VP, William Haney (Dan Aykroyd).  While this very well sets up the film, the action is just about to get underway three years into the Haney administration.

Kramer’s doing talks and whatnot in order to stay relevant.  Meanwhile, at the Democratic National Committee, they’ve learned about Olympia.  Apparently, a defense contractor, Charlie Reynolds (James Rebhorn), paid bribes to the White House during the Kramer administration.  DNC Chairman Joe Hollis (Wilford Brimley) sends in Douglas to investigate the matter at hand and promises the party’s support for another presidential run.

Douglas and Kramer end up joining forces together while on the run from the NSA.  With everything happening in the White House, they’re working hard to cover things up.  Colonel Paul Tanner (Everett McGill) goes rogue, ordering Reynolds killed.  This results from Haney and chief of staff Carl Witnaur (Bradley Whitford) working to frame Kramer.

While on the run, they encounter a number of people.  Some have lost their jobs and homes.  Others are just your average American trying to do the job.  But of all these moments, the most powerful impact comes when Genny (Connie Ray) kicks them out of the car.  Their administrations did a number of damage onto the working class.  For all the presidential speeches and campaigning, it isn’t easy to see this while on the trail.

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.

My Fellow Americans certainly holds up after several presidential administrations but the film could definitely be better.

DIRECTOR:  Peter Segal
SCREENWRITERS:  E. Jack Kaplan & Richard Chapman
CAST:  Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Dan Aykroyd, John Heard, Wilford Brimley, Everett McGill, Bradley Whitford, and Lauren Bacall

Warner Brothers opened My Fellow Americans on December 20, 1996.  My Fellow Americans is available on DVD and Digital. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.