Sunday, July 3, 2011

God Bless America Month: My Fellow Americans

It's July and you know what that means?


This is the month where I will be reviewing movies that are dedicated to the patriotic spirit of our flawed but great nation and this year is no exception, well there is one...

Your days are numbered, Michael Bay and this time its personal.

Of course, I will be doing a video review of Pearl Harbor for God Bless America Month (if my current situation and time permits as to whether or not it will be up on time), but I am going to review My Fellow Americans, to kick off God Bless America Month. 

A political satire with three comedy legends, hell yes!

So the film starts of with the Presidential Campaign of Republican Russell P. Kramer (played by late, comedy great Jack Lemmon) giving a victory speech to his supporters after winning the election against his hated rival, Democratic Nominee, Matt Douglas (James Garner). Standing alongside him is Vice-President William "Bill" Haney (Dan Aykroyd). He begins his speech with "Dreams are like our children..." (remember this because this will be a constant running joke). Fast forward to four years later and we see Douglas winning the election. We then move fast forward to another four years and we see Haney (Kramer's former running mate) winning the election. Is this a political satire with elements of time travel?

If one of the Ghostbusters is President of the United States, anything is possible. You can bet that there will be some Ghostbusting in the White House as well.

Three years later, (I swear to god that Dan Aykroyd is a time traveler like The Doctor), we see Kramer acting as a spokesperson for a Japanese Company in which he almost gets raped by a panda furry (I am not making this up, watch the movie and you will see what I am talking about). After that mishap, he is promoting his cookbooks while Douglas is trying to put the finishing touches on his own and is in the middle of a nasty divorce after his philandering ways have been revealed (sound familiar Mr.Clinton, although to be fair, Hilary didn't divorce him). 

Douglas and Kramer are then put together on Air Force One by Haney to attend a funeral and spend the entire time arguing on the trip. God, this sounds like my parents whenever we took trips to Disneyland when my brother and I were kids.

The Democrats soon find out about "Olympia" a series of kickbacks from defense contractor Charlie Reynolds paid to (organized and laundered through a front company by) Haney when he was Vice President, and which Kramer, according to Haney himself in a scene at the beginning of the movie, knew nothing about. Joe Hollis, the head of the Democratic National Committee (Wilfred Brimley, taking a break from talking about "Diabetis," that's how he says it, seriously) encourages Douglas to investigate this matter further considering that word on the street is that Kramer may be involved.

Neither could be reached for comment on this matter.

So Douglas takes matters into his own hands and confronts Reynolds and asks him about "Olympia" and the kickbacks. When they prepare to meet in private, Reynolds gets whacked in the car that he was driving as Douglas and Kramer bump into each other and as fate would have it, they both discover that Reynolds has been assassinated in order to keep "Olympia" under wraps. I am going to cue the appropriate music for this turn of events (it really is a sudden dark turn, god damn movie, you went from a political satire to a dark comedy, holy shit):

Kramer and Douglas are then summoned by Haney and take Air Force One to meet him at Camp David to discuss this matter further. Both presidents realize that the plane is heading in the wrong direction and decide to hold the pilots at gunpoint (thanks to Kramer's Grandson's squirt gun) and escape the plane just in time before it explodes.

What the hell is up with this movie and the assassination attempts?! I thought this was going to be a comedy and a political satire not a dark action/thriller!

So both ex-Presidents are stuck in North Carolina and realize that they have some very powerful enemies, decide to go to Ohio to Kramer's Presidential Library to get the evidence they need to not only prove Kramer's innocence, but to also expose Haney. So begins the road trip across America in which they learn more about the average American.

Their first stop is North Carolina (where they started) in which they hop on board a train that is heading towards Ohio. There they meet the young American voters who show a lot of disillusion and dissatisfaction with both Presidents in their own rights.

Next they run into a trucker who decides to give them a lift, but it turns out that she was harboring illegal immigrants in her truck. Douglas meets a young immigrant man and speaks to him in Spanish and the young men tells him about how he left Mexico to pursue the American Dream. Douglas then gives him his coat and the young man gives him his compass as a parting gift and wishes them the best of luck on their journey.

The next group of Americans they meet is an average family that happened to be traveling to Mount Rushmore on their own road trip. The family is kind enough to take them to where they need to go, but when they both start bickering again and trying to correct the patriarch of the family, things take a turn for the worse. The woman tells her husband to stop the care and puts both ex-Presidents in their place stating that she and her family invited both men into the car, calling it her home. She tells Kramer that because of his policies, she and her husband lost their jobs and because of Douglas' policies they lost their home, forcing them to live in and out their car until they reach Ohio where there may be a job opportunity waiting for her husband  This is one of the major scenes in the film in which both men realize that they have done more harm than good as presidents and makes them see how their policies really affect the average American more than they think.

This scene is absolutely brilliant and touching at the same time because the wife tells both Presidents how their policies have affected their lives and did not bring up the Republican/Democrat ideologies.

Afterwards they find themselves at a Gay Pride Parade and one of the men marching in the parade (as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, no less) recognizes the both of them and is delighted to see them both. He talks with both men and Douglas says he has always been supportive of Gay rights, while Kramer has always been reluctant. Douglas jokingly says to the man that Kramer needs to come out of the closet and gives him a gay pride necklace as a gift and tells them that he has friends that can get them to Ohio, which happen to be a Lesbian Biker Gang.

I bet the parade was fun and fabulous! How could anyone not have any fun!

Once they get to the Presidential Library, they realize that Haney's men have altered the records, but luckily recieve a message from Reynolds' secretary who is worried about his "disappearance" stating that the chief-of-staff Witnaur had visited Reynolds. They decide that they have no choice but to confront and interrogate Witnaur (with the help of Joe Hollis) to which Witnaur said that Haney was responsible for "Olympia" but had nothing to do Reynolds' murder and said that Tanner (the NSA agent that had been chasing them the entire time) was the one responsible. Thankfully the group had recorded the entire confession and decide to make a break for the White House and confront Haney.

Thanks to the help of White House chef, Rita, both men were able to sneak in and pass security in order to get to the Oval Office in which Haney is in the Garden giving a press conference. After trying to escape Tanner and the NSA agents they finally managed to evade them (thanks to the help of a fabulous secret service agent who shoots down Tanner) and crash Haney's press conference.

Both men play Witnaur's confession to Haney and Haney is forced to admit guilt, though he had no knowledge of Reynolds' murder. The agents then introduce the agent that shot down Tanner to Douglas and Kramer in which the agent recognizes Kramer from the Gay Pride Parade (I love happy coincidences). 

Afterwards both men are enjoying Rita's cooking as they are making snide remarks about Matthews' ascent to Presidency (the guy who played Kevin McAlliastor's dad in the first two Home Alone films). They then realize that Matthews was behind the whole scheme the entire time. 

Feeling defeated after witnessing all of the dishonesty (and despite having the evidence to put Matthews behind bars) Kramer and Douglas decide to give up and go home, but Douglas has a change of heart when one of the Secret Service agents tells him that he is honored and proud to be in the same car as Douglas and proud of what he and Kramer did for this country. At that moment Douglas has a change of heart and tells the driver to take him to the CNN Studios to break the story.

Nine Months Later, Matthews is found guilty on all counts and begins serving his prison sentence as Kramer and Douglas both decide to get back into the Presidential Campaign, but this time, they decide to represent the Independent Party.

 All's well that ends well. Why can't we have a Republican and a Democrat running together for President and Vice-President? That would surely unify the US, wouldn't it?

Is My Fellow Americans relevant today as it was back in 1996?

Surprisingly it is. A lot of the issues that were discussed and brought up during that time are still being talked about today. This film is one of the most underrated Political Satires in recent years and its really a shame that not as many people have seen this film, it's really a hidden gem. The issues that our country is currently facing are brought up and dealt with beautifully without any bias towards one political party, in fact, this film points out that political parties are not important, and how the Presidential policies are more important than the political party they represent. The film also managed to show how different policies affect the lives of average Americans in different ways. This film in many ways can be classified as a Road Movie in the same way Easy Rider was.

The film does have some flaws though. The pacing at times can be a little bit uneven at certain points and the bickering between Douglas and Kramer can get annoying at times but the dialogue is incredibly well written and funny, which makes both men endearing in their own right. The plot can be a little convoluted at times and there are some scenes that could have been left out of the film, (the one that comes to mind is the scene with the college students on the train, simply because it's the weakest scene in the film) but despite these flaws, this movie manages to shine through.

I know this is one of my longest reviews, but this film is a hidden gem and I highly recommend it. If you get a chance to see this film, please do, it's still incredibly fresh and relevant as it was when it first came out, not to mention Dan Aykroyd as President of the United States? How can you not want to see it!

My name is Maricruz Gonzalez and I'm the Movie Bitch... because somebody has to be.

Stay Sassy Planet Earth!

1 comment:

  1. "Everyone thinks I'm this idiot, but nobody knows it was all
    just a big FUH-kade.

    Who's the idiot now?"