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Case Number 00731

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My Fellow Americans

Warner Bros. // 1996 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 22nd, 2000

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All Rise...

The Charge

Grumpy Old Presidents

Opening Statement

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau team up once again in this side-splitting comedy about two old codgers who…oh, hold on a minute. There is no Matthau in this one. My Fellow Americans does star Jack Lemmon, however James Garner takes the place of the late Walter Matthau in this zany romp about the life, loves and zingers of two former U.S. Presidents on the run. This wacky romp co-stars Lauren (Ms. Humphrey Bogart) Bacall, John (Big) Heard, Sela ("Sisters") Ward, Wilford (The "Quaker Oats" guy) Brimley, Everett (The People Under The Stars) McGill and Dan ("Saturday Night Live") Aykroyd, the most eclectic group of people I've seen in a movie in a looooooong time.

Facts of the Case

Jack Lemmon plays ex-President Russell P. Kramer, a staunch Republican who's wallet is tighter than his who-ha hole. James Garner plays ex-President Matt Douglas, a smart-ass Democrat who, in his spare time, writes books and sleeps with his editors. Both of these men are bitter rivals, fighting in airplanes, cars and even former Presidents funerals. To say they don't get along is an understatement.

Elsewhere in the White House, a scandal thought long buried has resurfaced. "Olympia," the films version of "Whitewater," is threatening to make waves in the new President's (Aykroyd) lake. A plan is hatched to pin "Olympia" on President Kramer, even though he knows nothing about it. An informant is killed along the way, and Kramer and Douglas are on the run from a burning helicopter, Secret Security officers, tourists and a Gay Pride Parade.

As they flee by foot, train, and car the completely expected happens. They encounter funny run-ins with every kind of folk imaginable from small town hicks to homosexuals on parade, spewing out funny one-liners and sight gags along the way. If you thought Grumpy Old Men or The Odd Couple were funny, this won't disappoint. If, however, you have a cold, peat moss covered stone in place of your hard, blistered heart and don't find this kind of movie funny, you won't like this at all. And you are the Devil.

The Evidence

My Fellow Americans is my kind of movie. I laughed pretty darn hard while watching it. I remember seeing it at the theaters years ago and just chuckling my little tookus off. You'd think that being a buddy movie and having Jack Lemmon in it, this would suffer from a lack of Walter Matthau. However, James Garner does an excellent job as Lemmon's foil in a role that nicely fills Matthau's shoes. How can you not laugh at such lines as when President Douglas is in the men's room peeing at a urinal as a fan wants to shake hand, he responds: "Sorry, can't shake now. Have to keep my hands on the First Penis."

My Fellow Americans is not a brilliant story of even a brilliant script, but it has something that most comedies of today sorely lack, mainly good solid writing. I know I am going to get PLENTY of hate mail for saying this, but the Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler films rely far to much on slapstick, juvenile comedy, oft times neglecting witty, humorous zingers that films like My Fellow Americans garner. Now, before you start up those emails, I'm not saying that movies shouldn't have pratfalls and physical comedy in them. I'm just saying that usually can't sustain a good comedy all the way through. It gets old after a while. But, if you have good solid writing interspersed with slapstick, then you're onto something consistently funny.

Lemmon and Garner perform extremely well off each other in most all the scenes they share. I have this feeling this may be the only pairing we see of these two (in this type of film, although I hope that I'm wrong) and it's a delight to see them working fast and furious with the dialogue they are given. Garner especially gives such a sarcastically funny, bitter performance that he should make this a new career, ala Leslie Nielson and Lloyd Bridges. Director Peter Segal (Tommy Boy) possesses a sure hand at comedy, keeping the pace moving along briskly.

Included on this disc is a blooper reel that has funny moments, but not as much as the movie itself. If you've seen the Grumpy Old Men movies, then you know what I'm talking about. These are the same bloopers that go over the end credits on most of those movies. For this DVD, they've given it to us as an extra (all praise Warner, giver of bloopers, taker of most all other extras) and are full frame. A humorous extra, but nothing to watch over and over again.

Also included are the standard "extras": production notes, cast and crew info., a trailer, subtitles, yada, yada, yada. The production notes are interesting, giving a little background on a film that would normally not have much said about its origins. Also, as a nugget of Hollywood trivia, this film was produced by Jon Peters, the producer behind Batman and infamous nutball guy who was once Ms. Prince Of Tides boy-toy.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I don't have any complaints on the movie, but I do have a bone to pick with Warner. For a company that does really well with tons of the DVD packages they release, this one stinks to high heaven. What's the deal, Warner? This is full-frame, and a terrible transfer. There is grain throughout, and the colors are not nearly as sharp as they should be. Would it have been so freakin' hard to just do a widescreen version of My Fellow Americans? I'm not asking for a miracle, like anamorphic or anything. God forbid! Sigh…maybe someday we'll get something better, but I'm not holding my breath (that is reserved for trying to get Fletch Lives on DVD…)

The sound for this is Dolby 5.1, and it does okay. This is not some big bang action film that will utilize your sound system, but it'll do well, especially compared to the transfer.

Closing Statement

Comedy doesn't come any sharper than this (well it does, but there aren't a lot of Albert Brooks films out on DVD.) Such quick and fun performances, this seems to be a comedians dream script. Great performances, great script, okay extras…El Crapo transfer. I can only recommend this as a good buy if you find it for 15 bucks or under. If not, it's a nice renter for a lazy weekend night.

The Verdict

In a good, just world this would have been free to go. But since it lacks any type of decent transfer, the DVD for My Fellow Americans is guilty guilty guilty! A little rehabilitation might do it some good.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 49
Audio: 70
Extras: 48
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Blooper Reel
• Production Notes
• Cast and Crew Info
• Theatrical Trailer


• IMDb

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