My Fellow Americans


‘…a nice opportunity to see some old-stagers having fun…’

It’s Thanksgiving, so rather than dwell on the hate-filled political debates of 2020, I thought we should set aside what divides us and take a nostalgic look back to the hate-filled political debates of yesteryear featured in My Fellow Americans…

‘Eighty million people voted against you. They don’t like you. They don’t trust you.’ Whatever shortcomings Peter Segal’s comedy about US politics might have, there’s certainly a few choice lines for conspiracy theorists to conjure with. This particular line is part of the on-going sparring between two ex-presidents who go on the run during an attempted coup on the American justice system; it’s up to the viewer to decide if this scenario have any relevance today.

A couple of brief montages set the scene; President Haney (Dan Ackroyd) is the American president, but his Dan Quayle-lite VP (John Heard) is up to something nefarious; what? That’s the mystery that Kramer (Jack Lemmon) and Douglas (James Garner) are trying to solve in this comedy which attempts to fuse a cross-country road trip with a political satire, and comes up short in both departments. This was originally slated as yet another pairing for Lemmon and Walter Matthau, but Garner was brought in when Matthau’s health failed; the script remained the same, with the usual Odd Couple bickering very much to the fore.

There are some terrible jokes here, but the intention and the delivery are passable. It feels a little strange that Lemmon’s character is a Republican, and characterised as a Scrooge who is bad with money. It lands with a little more resonance that Garner’s Democrat is a smooth-talking womaniser compromised by his casual relations with the opposite sex. But in truth, My Fellow Americans might have worked better with the actors cast the opposite way around; with today’s social media attempting to entrench the country politically as adherents to one side or another, My Fellow Americans misses a shot by going for character comedy rather than politics. The obstacles here are very much practical ones, like having no cash, jumping off a train in the middle of nowhere, or commandeering a family car where the driver suddenly grows a political conscience. Amusing enough in a low-brow fashion, but hardly what this talented cast, including Lauren Bacall, deserve.

Any film that ends with a President sighted in a penitentiary wearing an orange jump-suit for his yard-work offers some prescience; US politics is playing with fire right now, and somebody’s going to jail eventually, whether you believe Biden or Trump. While the silly shenanigans of My Fellow Americans have dated badly in the internet age, this is a nice opportunity to see some old-stagers having fun, and something of a relief from an endless war of words that both Republican and Democrat trolls are still hammering on with right now online. And let’s be honest; I’d be happy to accept a Dan Ackroyd-based presidency right now…


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    • Yes, Garner was always a great performer, and he steps in effectively here. Rockford Files was great too.

  1. Dan Akroyd COULD be President, if he’d only listened to my advice and poured Orange Dreamsicle on his Lucky Charms.
    (and no, I am not going to let that go. It’s my running gag for the day and I think it’s funny, even if nobody else does)

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