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Lemmon And Garner Make Pair Of Fun ‘Fellows’

Michael Rechtshaffen The Hollywo

Call it “Grumpy Old Presidents.”

In “My Fellow Americans,” Jack Lemmon and James Garner play a pair of crusty ex-chief executives from opposite ends of the political spectrum who reluctantly join forces when a scandal threatens to implicate both of them.

A pleasant if not entirely successful comedy caper, the picture probably goes further than it ought to thanks to the game efforts of its two charming leads, who fire off the barrage of barbed zingers with seasoned ease.

Lemmon is former White House dweller Russell Kramer, a tight-fisted, egocentric Republican whose one term in office ended in defeat to cynical, womanizing Democrat Matt Douglas (Garner), who in turn lost out to current president William Haney (Dan Aykroyd). Longstanding adversaries, Kramer and Douglas get a taste of the old limelight when they become targets of a dirty and potentially deadly political scheme and find themselves teaming up for an unscheduled, extended road trip.

The banter between the two curmudgeons flies with wicked precision, and it’s a treat watching two pros take aim with such offhand alacrity.

The concept of dueling ex-presidents is a ripe one, but while screenwriters E. Jack Kaplan, Richard Chapman and Peter Tolan get some great mileage out of the political cross fire (peppering the script with real Washington references), the contrivance that brings the two men together and keeps them on the run is considerably less satisfying.

Things also get bogged down whenever the picture attempts to become more purposeful or reflective, but fortunately director Peter Segal (“Tommy Boy,” “Naked Gun 33 1/3”) knows for the most part how to keep up the momentum.

While it’s essentially Lemmon and Garner’s show, others on hand include a sadly underused Lauren Bacall as Lemmon’s supportive tart-tongued wife; a similarly limited Aykroyd as the shifty, current prez; Everett McGill as a nasty National Security agent; Wilford Brimley as a sympathetic Democratic Party chairman; Sela Ward as a Washington news correspondent; and a bumbling John Heard who gets some laughs as the Dan Quayle-esque vp.

MEMO: These 2 sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Locations: Lincoln Heights, Newport and Showboat Cinemas Credits: Directed by Peter Segal, starring Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Dan Aykroyd, John Heard, Brad Whitford, Wilford Brimley, Everett McGill, Lauren Bacall Running time: 1:40 Rating: PG-13

2. OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “My Fellow Americans:” Bob Thomas/Associated Press: With two of the screen’s best comedic actors, a script that crackles with wit and surprise, and perfectly tuned direction, “My Fellow Americans” scores a bull’s-eye. Jay Boyar/The Orlando Sentinel: As political satire, “My Fellow Americans” makes a poor candidate. Jack Lemmon and James Garner play Kramer and Douglas, former American presidents and enemies for 30 years. They join forces to thwart a plot by the current chief exec to pin a scandal on them. But the movie itself is the real disgrace. Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: If the presidency is genuinely as crass and corrupt as Jack Lemmon and - oops; almost said Walter Matthau - James Garner play it in “My Fellow Americans,” then perhaps we were better off with Richard M. Nixon.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Michael Rechtshaffen The Hollywood Reporter

These 2 sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Locations: Lincoln Heights, Newport and Showboat Cinemas Credits: Directed by Peter Segal, starring Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Dan Aykroyd, John Heard, Brad Whitford, Wilford Brimley, Everett McGill, Lauren Bacall Running time: 1:40 Rating: PG-13

2. OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “My Fellow Americans:” Bob Thomas/Associated Press: With two of the screen’s best comedic actors, a script that crackles with wit and surprise, and perfectly tuned direction, “My Fellow Americans” scores a bull’s-eye. Jay Boyar/The Orlando Sentinel: As political satire, “My Fellow Americans” makes a poor candidate. Jack Lemmon and James Garner play Kramer and Douglas, former American presidents and enemies for 30 years. They join forces to thwart a plot by the current chief exec to pin a scandal on them. But the movie itself is the real disgrace. Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: If the presidency is genuinely as crass and corrupt as Jack Lemmon and - oops; almost said Walter Matthau - James Garner play it in “My Fellow Americans,” then perhaps we were better off with Richard M. Nixon.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Michael Rechtshaffen The Hollywood Reporter

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