Directed by Peter Segal
Written by E. Jack Kaplan, Richard Chapman, and Peter Tolan
Released December 1996
Warner Bros. Studios
James Garner died last night, at 86 years old. You can’t say he didn’t live a long and full (and hopefully mostly happy) life. I thought I’d revisit this film of his, which I always enjoyed but seems to overlooked by many.
Garner stars as former U.S. President Matt Douglas (Democrat), while the Late Jack Lemmon (R.I.P.) co-stars as former U.S. President Russell Kramer (Republican). They’ve run against each other twice, with Kramer beating Douglas in the first election, but then Douglas beat Kramer four years later, only to then be beaten 4 years after that by William Haney (Dan Aykroyd), who was Kramer’s Vice President, and is the current President as this film begins. Got it?
We see what Douglas and Kramer have been up to post-Presidency. Kramer’s written a bunch of books and does charity work and makes personal appearances. He’s show to be very cheap, and will do almost anything to make a buck (& keep it). The legendary Lauren Bacall plays his wife, Margaret in a brief role. Douglas meanwhile is shown to be living more of a life of leisure. He’s divorced, and has a reputation for being a womanizer, including when he was in the White House. The two former Presidents worlds collide, when a major bribery scandal involving Haney comes to light. The DNC asks Douglas to look into it, with the possibility of him being re-nominated to run for President again (is that even legal?), while Kramer learns about it when he finds out that the Haney administration may be plotting to frame him for the crime. So both men are trying to look into the scandal for their own personal reasons, and they get targeted by rogue members of the National Security Agency who plot to kidnap and assassinate them. When both men are presumed dead in a helicopter explosion and are stuck in middle American, and have to make their way to Kramer’s Presidential Library in Ohio to search for some records he kept which can prove his innocence.
So the majority of the film after that is pretty much a classic “road movie/buddy comedy” with the two men frequently arguing with each other of politics and just their general differences as they encounter a bunch of average citizens on their trip across the country. They inadvertently end up walking in a Gay Pride Parade, get on a train during a costume party where everyone assumes that they’re actors playing the Presidents, hitch a ride with a female truck driver as well as a poor family who live in their station wagon, and others who help both men realize how out of touch they both are with average Americans. It’s all fun, and touching at times. Meanwhile the NSA finds out they are still alive and are on their trail.
Will they find the evidence they need and make it back to the White House in time to expose the vast conspiracy? NO SPOILERS! I recommend that you check out the film yourself to find out. Suffice to say that it’s a good film that trades on the comedic timing of Garner and Lemmon, two legends who will forever be missed, who had excellent chemistry working together. A great film.