Racist and sexist jokes are about as funny as when you pee, but miss the bowl and hit your foot, and then have to scrub and wash your foot in a paranoid way to make sure you get the pee smell and horrible mess off. So, not very funny. Unless your particular boat is floated by being pissed on, in which case shoot yourself in the nuts now, because there isn't much hope left for you. This is a movie review? You bet! I make that crappy comparison of racist and sexist jokes to pee in quality simply because My Fellow Americans, which on the face of it is a good-natured, light-hearted family comedy, has a pretty nasty underbelly. It's not enough to stop me writing a review which generally mocks the whole movie, but on our journey into Stupid Land (admission is free!) I'll highlight the generally insensitive jokes made at the expense of fat people, black people and gay people. If you can't be bothered to read the next seven paragraphs, just look at the pretty pictures, and rest assured this is a movie that characterizes all lesbians ever as being - and I'm quoting an exact phrase written on the back of a leathered-up motorcycle-riding lesbian in the movie - 'Dykes On Bikes'.
I suppose I should write something about the plot. The movie starts in some indeterminate year, with Republican Russell P. Kramer beating Democrat Matt Douglas in the race to the White House. Because this movie deals in cardboard characterization, let me sum it up easily for you. Kramer (Jack Lemmon) is meant to be George Bush; conservative, penny-pinching - after all, Bush certainly stole a whole economy from the American people - and uptight. Douglas (James Garner) is meant to be an older version of Bill Clinton; cares more about chasing women than setting a political agenda. Or so I've heard. Cut forward four years (no, really, in the space of five minutes this movie covers more than 12 years), and Douglas this time beats Kramer. Fine. Cut forward another four years (the fuck?) and Haney - Kramer's Vice-President from Texas, meant to be just another wealthy hick Republican - beats Douglas. Right. Cut forward another three years (time machine!) and both Douglas and Kramer have retired from the political scene. Understand all that? No? Good. Present day, Haney is told by his Chief of Staff that Olympia, a scandal about taking kickbacks for defense contracts, is about to blow up, but that they could shift the blame on to Kramer. Smell a plot?
Yes, Douglas and Kramer, who hate each other's guts, end up being thrown together, both framed for the conspiracy, and racing across America to prove their innocence and get Haney thrown out of office. Dramatic tension is meant to be provided by a psychotic government agent chasing them, but...no. That's the plot, and I'm not joking when I say that revealing any more about the main story line would render renting out this movie pointless. And as we all know, you have to suffer the same indignities I do. Anyway, in one of the very first scenes, Kramer gets roped in to dancing with a man dressed up in a panda bear suit. I thought that was funny. I also thought My Two Dads was funny. Well, when I was a five-year-old girl, anyway. It's not long before the movie makes it first jarring joke, when Kramer is given a memo by one of his aides. Kramer says "Thanks, Jim", to which the pasty-faced aide says "Jim's black, sir". It's just a pointless line. A little later on, Matthews, Vice-President under Haney (headache time!) goes on a tirade about "the black people" being no good at certain things. It's meant to be funny, but it just made me feel uncomfortable.
The only non-white characters in this movie are relegated to the likes of a White House cook, a hokey chef in some small town cafe, and a security guard. Success! Anyway, the plot and the movie rumbles forward, with Kramer and Douglas trying to find transport across America. They have to get to Kramer's Presidential Library to find some evidence that will prove Haney is lying. On the way, both ex-Presidents needlessly insult a fat woman. They hitch a lift with this female truck driver, in exchange for Kramer giving her a rare watch. For no reason whatsoever, he then says, "There are only two watches like that in the world. Reagan has one and now Shamu the killer hick has the other." Poor fatty! Douglas says not to piss her off, but then inexplicably follows this up by saying to fatty, "You must be one of those rare gals who look good carrying an extra one...two hundred pounds." Again, poor fatty! Even with these comments, she doesn't throw them out of her truck. So, we've got a fat, surly truck driving woman. Cliché character number three (added to the two Presidents). How about the fact she's smuggling illegal Mexican immigrants? Oh my! Original comedy! Vote for this winner!
One of the immigrants, a guy called Ernesto, is portrayed as a simple youth who "loves this country" and speaks in broken English. Bizarre. Douglas tries to reassure the Ernesto that all is well - even though the three of them are hiding in a tunnel, and Kramer's wielding a gun. There's a brief moment at this point where Douglas and Ernesto discuss the size of Kramer's penis, but I've tried to block that out of my memory, and don't want to relive it right now. At the end of the movie, when all is solved and the two old mumbly ex-Presidents are tucked up safely in their beds, we get to see the various people they met on their cross-country wacky chase. Ernesto quips to a couple of omnipresent reporters "I came to this country with those two men." Ha! The quality of jokes in this movie never really excels excusable, but if you can ignore the undercurrent of bigotry you'll probably like My Fellow Americans. Besides, if you don't watch this, what else are you going to do? Masturbation is so 2002. But wait! There's more of this review left! Oh no, you're not safe yet! And the overuse of exclamation marks is here! RIGHT ON TIME!
Later in the movie, there's a car chase scene, which ends with Kramer and Douglas hitting a dead end. They get out of the car and race towards some sort of street party they can see in the distance. Except when the camera pans it, it reveals they're in the middle of a West Virginia gay pride march. Okay, not believable, but so far, so inoffensive. It's only when you see almost all the marchers as being dressed like Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz that you might get a suspicious. Then the tune of Somewhere Over The Rainbow kicks in, and someone at the front of the line refers to the two Presidents as "ladies". Sure, because all gay people are fey, effeminate queens who love nothing more than to watch the story of how some dumb bitch and her ugly dog got lost on a road made of yellow bricks. Gringo the moral crusader fights on! He's going to pop a cork! See, all of these wacky meetings are supposed to show the audience that Kramer and Douglas have forgotten about the common people they used to govern over. Can't you just smell the quality of the movie? It reeks like poop!
As you can probably imagine, what with this being a movie all about Presidents and stuff, the final few scenes are carried out in the White House. They aren't really funny, but at least there are some nice reality-defying moments. Perhaps my favourite is when Rita, a cook at the White House (and apparently the only one in existence, working in a tiny kitchen), smuggles Kramer and Douglas in to the President's house. She does this by hiding them in the trunk of her car, among a selection of fruits and vegetables. If I was really nasty I could say that the actors were old enough to be senile fruits or comatose elderly vegetables, but I'm not, so I won't. Once the Presidents are inside the White House, some guy helps Rita unload her trunk. Only he finds Kramer's gun lying there. He looks scared, before Rita grabs it, sticks it in her pocket and says, "Haven't you been down to that farmer's market lately? It's brutal." And she just WALKS AWAY. With a loaded gun. In to the White House. Right. It's wrong on two levels. Firstly, the joke isn't funny. Secondly, it's unbelievable and just looks daft. So silly!
Some other stuff happens, and then the movie ends. I've got to say I like the very end (because it's over! Ho ho!), even if the final twist is pretty predictable. Overall, My Fellow Americans is not a terrible movie, but as I've tried to show in this review it could be seen as offensive in a not-too-subtle way. It's not a laughably bad movie (such as Ninja Academy), but it's not a particularly amusing creation. Take it for what it is, or don't, I've got to say I couldn't care less either way. Although it is kind of sad that Jack Lemmon got stuck with making comedy buddy movies like this one, Out To Sea (I'm saving that gem for a review of its own) and the Grumpy Old Men movies. James Garner is, and always has been, a winner, and deserves kudos for any movie he's in. His presence was the only thing that stopped me beating the screen up when I watched Maverick. You know, that crap movie with Mel Gibson. Again, it's somewhat sad that James Garner got roped in to My Fellow Americans. Still, any movie that creates a world where Dan Aykroyd is President deserves some credit. A life's ambition fulfilled!
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