My Fellow Americans
Starring: Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Dan Aykroyd, John Heard, Wilford Brimley
Director: Peter Segal
Rated PG-13 for salty language and innuendo
The concept of forcing two complete opposites to work together has been around since the early days of comedy. Often a device used in slapstick (think “The Three Stooges” and “Laurel & Hardy”), the scenario is the perfect way to create comedy gold, as both people will annoy and bug each other with hilarious results. No stranger to this formula was the great actor Jack Lemmon. Throughout his fifty year career in Hollywood, Lemmon starred in some of the most memorable comedies using this method. A perfect example is the underrated 1996 comedy My Fellow Americans, starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner as ex-U.S. Presidents caught up in a conspiracy theory. My Fellow Americans is available digitally exclusive in HD through VUDU, just in time for President’s Day.
Jack Lemmon is former U.S. President Russell Kramer who spends his retirement years writing books and speaking at special functions. James Garner is former U.S. President Matt Douglas, a perennial ladies man going through a divorce. But both would do anything to be President again. When current U.S. President (and former Vice President to Kramer) Bill Haney (Dan Aykroyd) learns that a scandal he was involved in becomes uncovered, he plots to shift blame to Kramer. As news of the scandal begins to spread, Kramer begins to investigate to clear his name. Douglas also begins to investigate, hoping to use the information to his gain. However, when both start digging too deep, their lives are put in jeopardy. When they both narrowly avoid an assassination attempt, they are forced to work together, travelling across the country gathering clues in the hopes of exposing the scandal for what it really is.
Jack Lemmon had a long and successful career during his first forty years in Hollywood, garnering both critical and audience acclaim for his performances in both comedies and dramas. In the early 1990s, he received a new generation of movie fans thanks to the comedy “Grumpy Old Men”. This paved the way for a slew of comedies in the “crotchety old man” genre, often pairing him with his frequent co-star Walter Matthau. As Grumpy Old Men proved, Lemmon was still capable of bringing the laughs, even at his old age. My Fellow Americans is a perfect complement to the filmography of Lemmon’s twilight years. As former President Russell Kramer, he is often out of touch with the rest of the country, coming off as sometime elitist. His inability to relate to the real world allows for some humorous moments as his stubbornness gets thrown back in his face.
James Garner is the perfect foe to Jack Lemmon. In fact, it is really the on-screen chemistry between Lemmon and Garner that is the highlight of the film. They constantly lock horns, annoying each other and taking any opportunity to belittle the other. Their adversarial relationship is much more than the fact they are from opposing political parties; there is a genuine dislike for each other based on the personalities they project to the world. There is plenty of slapstick humor as well, played and heightened to great effect by the fact they are elderly. Seeing Lemmon and Garner in a car chase, crashing into a fast food restaurant mascot, hiding out in a gay pride parade, and galloping on horseback to save the day are just some of the hilarious antics with which they get involved. Somehow, the fact that they are elder makes all their situations funnier, and their reactions to the situations are priceless.
My Fellow Americans may not have made the most at the box office or been a critical success, but it has definitely found a following on home video. The comedy partnership of Jack Lemmon and James Garner works perfectly, and it’s a shame it was the only time they starred in a movie together. My Fellow Americans is a light-hearted way to celebrate President’s Day, or just a perfect way to relax and laugh at a really funny film. VUDU is one of the few places you can enjoy the movie in HD as it’s not available on Blu-ray! And if you’re feeling especially patriotic, you can enjoy this film, and many other films about presidents in our Collection Hail to the Chief.
DID YOU KNOW?
My Fellow Americans was originally written to be another starring vehicle for Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Unfortunately, due to illness, Matthau was forced to leave the film and replaced by James Garner.