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Film / My Fellow Americans

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A 1996 American comedy film directed by Peter Segal, starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner. Also in the cast are Dan Aykroyd, John Heard, Wilford Brimley, and Lauren Bacall.

The film centers around two politically (and personally) opposed former Presidents of the United States, who are forced to go on the run together after they find themselves on the receiving end of a conspiracy to cover up the fact that the current President took a kickback.

The film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Kidnapping: When Kramer and Douglas plan on stealing Wayne and Genny's car to continue on their trip to Kramer's Library, they only turn back when they see a child in the backseat. The couple then gives them a ride, saying all they had to do was ask. It only comes out later when the two act like a pair of jerkasses that the family is homeless and desperate for work.
  • Apparently Powerless Puppetmaster: Two former Presidents battle a conspiracy which leads all the way up to the current President. After they expose the conspiracy and force the President to resign, they find out the real ringleader has been the apparently incompetent Vice-President, who has used this as an opportunity to get the top job.
  • Appeal to Force: At one point, the fugitive ex-Presidents hitch a ride with some illegal aliens being smuggled across the border. They're discovered by both the INS (in ordinary police helicopters) and the Government Conspiracy (in military attack helicopters) at the same time. There's some Jurisdiction Friction between the two groups, which a conspiracy chopper deftly solves by firing a missile across the INS's nose.
  • Artistic License Politics: At the end of the movie, after President Haney resigns and former President Douglas reveals he recorded an incriminating conversation that will get Vice President Matthews thrown out of office Douglas states that under the 25th Amendment the Speaker of the House will become President. The 25th Amendment doesn't address that - it only addresses how the VP becomes President, how a President can appoint a new VP should there be a vacancy, and when the President is incapacitated or unable to discharge his duties. The Presidential Succession Act describes who becomes President if the President and Vice President die, resign or are removed.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: The film comes to a climax after the two ex-Presidents make it to the White House and are racing to a press conference to expose the scandal. An evil NSA agent by the name of Colonel Tanner pulls his car onto the White House lawn, cutting the two off, all while screaming orders to shoot the presidents at two Secret Service snipers on the roof, claiming they are imposters. He raises his gun after the snipers hesitate. A shot rings out. Cue Disturbed Doves. Tanner falls dead by one of the snipers, who reveals he knew they were the real presidents, as he had met them while dressed as Dorothy Gale during a gay pride parade. He had given them a bracelet which was sticking out of Kramer's pocket.
  • Batman Gambit: It turns out that the events were all orchestrated by the vice-president to get the current president impeached so he could become president.
  • "Begone" Bribe: Kramer and Douglas are having a conversation in the former's home and his grandson wants to play. Douglas hands the boy a five dollar bill and gleefully says "Here look. Money!" and the boy takes the bribe. Kramer looks on disapprovingly with Douglas snarking "What, I was just showing him how you got elected."
  • Bilingual Backfire: The two main characters run into some Mexicans. One strikes up a conversation, insulting the other man, but after the Mexicans leave the scene the other comes back with: "By the way, yo hablo español muy bien. Dickhead."
  • Butch Lesbian: Douglas and Kramer hitch a ride with a gang of butch bikers.
    Kramer: You know, after that bike ride, I think I'm changing my position on an important issue. I think the military can definitely use some of those gals.
  • Camp Gay: Secret Service Sniper Ralph Flemming manages to be this and Straight Gay. Basically he plays it up in a pride parade.
  • Catchphrase: Kramer's line that "dreams are like our children" which, by the time of Haney's term, everyone is sick of.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: When on the run, the Presidents encounter the person under Camp Gay/Straight Gay. He helps them catch a ride to their next destination and gives them a parting gift and this gift is how he later identifies them as the real Presidents and saves their lives.
  • Corrupt Politician: Haney. He got rich taking kickbacks while serving as Kramer's Vice President. Kramer and Douglas force him to resign as President when they find out. Also Vice President Matthews, who orchestrated everything so he could succeed Haney.
  • Curse Cut Short: The final words of the movie. Doubles as a Call-Back to a Running Gag.
    My Fellow Americans...
    You son of a bit-
  • Delusions of Eloquence: Matthews. Justified because, well, he is a Vice President (and he's clearly modeled after Dan Quayle). The ending reveals he's faking it to pull Obfuscating Stupidity... and then he unknowingly demonstrates it again while explaining this.
  • Disposable Pilot: The two former Presidents are traveling in a government-issue helicopter but end up arguing. They force the pilot to land the plane and walk away to argue some more. The pilot lifts off, and the chopper blows up seconds later. This is the first clue to the Presidents that someone wants them dead.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Or rather, the idiot Vice President who can barely string two words together was behind it all.
  • The Dragon: While the film paints Agent Tanner as the Big Bad, he is later revealed to be VP Matthews' Dragon.
  • Evil Chancellor: John Heard's secretly-competent version of Dan Quayle is an Evil Vice President variation.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Douglas and Kramer, despite being from opposing parties, end up friends after everything they've been through in their efforts to avoid assassination and expose the corruption in the White House.
  • Friendly Sniper: Lieutenant Ralph Fleming, an extremely friendly sniper who ends up saving the day.
  • Gallows Humor: "...They're down."
  • Groin Attack: From riding a horse: "When this is over promise me we'll come back and look for my balls."
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: When Kramer and Douglas are on the run from assassins and hiding in a truck full of illegal immigrants (It Makes Sense in Context, sorta), Douglas strikes up a conversation with one of the immigrants in Spanish, finally making some insulting remarks about Kramer. As the punchline, after the two part company with the immigrants, Kramer responds in flawless Spanish, "I can speak Spanish too, dickhead!"
  • Hollywood Silencer: Douglas doesn't hear the suppressed gunshot that kills Charlie Reynolds, even though it happens only a few feet from him.
  • I Call Him "Mister Happy": Blinky, The First Penis.
  • Indy Ploy: "What am I, fuckin MacGyver? I'm makin this up as I go." note 
  • Interrupted by the End: Though it also appears in an earlier scene, the film ends with a verbal cutoff. One character distracts the other and seizes a microphone in front of a large audience. As the latter begins "My fellow Americans," the former sees he's been deceived and mutters "you son of a--"
  • Japandering: As an ex-American President, Kramer is reduced to doing this — he does object to dancing with giant stuffed animals, though.
  • King Incognito: Kramer and Douglas do this both intentionally and unintentionally while on the run from the NSA. They're former Presidents of the United States, but very few people recognize them. One of the saddest moments in the movie is when Kramer can't afford a piece of pie he wants only for the diner's cook to give it to him out of pity because he thinks Kramer is just a run of the mill down on his luck old guy.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Douglas is clearly modeled on Bill Clinton whereas Kramer is clearly modeled on George H. W. Bush.
  • Lying to the Perp: A variation occurs when a character, tied and blindfolded, is made to think that his interrogators are going to torture him, beginning with truth serum. One of them gets a needle from a sewing kit, goes through the motions of preparing a shot, and just barely touches the crook's arm with the needle when he shouts "I'll talk!"
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Kramer and Douglas are disturbed when they are confronted by a family whose lives have been ruined by the policies they enacted while in the White House.
  • Naked Freak-Out: Former presidents Kramer and Douglas are cornering an evil White House henchman while he's in bed with his beautiful blond girlfriend — and she storms off into the bathroom whimpering while trying to cover herself with the sheets.
  • No Party Given: Averted. Kramer, Haney, and Matthews are Republicans, while Douglas is a Democrat.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Matthews. Though still not the brightest bulb, he's nowhere near as moronic as his public persona.
    "Funny thing is everybody thinks I'm this big idiot, and its all a big facade." (While mispronouncing facade as "fəh-kade".)
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Jack Lemmon and James Garner portray two bickering ex-US Presidents from different parties who end up on the run as the result of the machinations of a President Corrupt who frames them for his own dirty dealings. For their part, both Lemmon and Garner are President Personable, despite their ideological and personal differences, and Garner has a touch of President Playboy to him as well.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Downplayed. The movie's one use of the F Word goes by so quickly that if you're not paying attention you might miss it.
    • Also discussed. "If you're gonna use the F-word, go for the gold."
  • Pride Parade: Kramer and Douglas are trying to escape being killed under the orders of the current president (It Makes Sense in Context) taking cover in a Gay Pride parade. They aren't trying to get Lost in a Crowd in this case, but rather are trying to be as visible as possible — not even the bad guy in the film would try to have them killed on live television. Becomes a Brick Joke by the end of the film when one of the government agents later refuses to shoot because he's been told these are 'imposters' but sees the gay-pride rings one still happens to be carrying and realizes "Those are the Presidents!" The audience doesn't recognize him at first because at the parade, he was cross-dressing as a member of a marching Dorothy band. He tells the Presidents they met "Somewhere over the rainbow."
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Douglas and Kramer, respectively.
  • Resigned in Disgrace: Haney resigns from the presidency at the end of the movie as punishment for his taking bribes and the attempts to assassinate Kramer and Douglas. Except he's innocent of the latter.
  • The Scapegoat: Haney and his chief of staff try to frame Kramer for the kickbacks that Haney took as Vice President. Then Matthews frames Haney for the assassination attempts on Kramer and Douglas and the murder of Charlie Reynolds.
  • Squee: Former presidents Douglas and Kramer show up unannounced in a car rental store, easily sending the two girls running the place into a rather strong expression of this trope.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted. When Douglas fires a pistol in the cockpit of Marine One, everyone is promptly deafened and Kramer calls out how foolish it is to fire a gun in a confined area with no ear protection.
  • Teethclenched Teamwork: Douglas and Kramer work this way for most of the movie.
  • Torture Always Works: Twisted and double subverted. He never gets tortured, he cracks under the threat, which fulfills the same purpose. However there never was any torture, he wasn't about to be dosed up with drugs, the needle he felt was simply a sewing needle.
  • Truth in Television: Kramer explains his poor driving skills as not having driven since he was in Congress. Presidents are forbidden by law to be behind the wheel on public roads for the rest of their lives. G.W.Bush being the only exception as long as he's driving on his ranch.
  • Unexpected Successor: Used as a one-off joke/Take That! at the end of the film. Because they were corrupt and caught, The President and Vice President both resign. Former Presidents Kramer and Douglas (the protagonists) realize that that means the Speaker of the House is next in line, and Douglas remarks "Oh no, not him!". At the time of filming, the speaker was Newt Gingrich.
  • Vice President Who?: Matthews is really dumb (a No Celebrities Were Harmed mock version of Dan Quayle). This turns out to be partly Obfuscating Stupidity, as he is essentially the Big Bad.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Kramer and Douglas have become this by the end of the film.
  • Wiper Start: Done to emphasize that neither of the two former presidents has driven themselves anywhere in years.
  • With Lyrics: Kramer and Douglas both came up with personal lyrics for "Hail to the Chief" just to deal with having to hear it so many times.
  • You Are Too Late: Subverted. At the end of the movie, Kramer and Douglas realize Matthews was the real mastermind and go to try and stop him taking office, only to find out Matthews has already been sworn in as President. While they seem to give up for awhile, it's implied they eventually revealed everything to the public since Matthews is last seen being sent to prison.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Douglas and Kramer pretend to be celebrity look-alikes of themselves. While some people are impressed by their resemblance the "real" ex-presidents, one man says that one of them has too big a nose to be convincing.