Director Peter Segal manages to draw a few laughs out of a film that might
have been titled Grumpy Old Presidents Hit the Road. Republican Russell Kramer (Jack
Lemmon) and Democrat Matt Douglas (James Garner) are longtime political
rivals, each having defeated the other to serve as a one-term president.
The current president, Republican William Haney (Dan Aykroyd), Kramer's
vice-president, was involved in a scandal during Kramer's presidency which
is just now coming to light. Rather than come clean, Haney instructs his
chief-of-staff, Carl Whitnaur (Brad Whitford) to shift the blame to Kramer.
Whitnaur does that and more, unleashing a bloodthirsty NSA agent to silence
both Kramer and Douglas, who's helping the Democrats ferret out the scandal.
Soon, Kramer and Douglas, are thrown together and unwilling travelmates,
searching for the evidence that Haney was involved in the scandal before
they are eliminated. The two constantly bicker and argue in the Grumpy Old Men
vein, and their constant one-upmanship lands a few chuckles. A better
source of humor is the cross-section of Americana they come across on
their journey, from a chipper homeless family to a rowdy selection of college
kids on a train, to the marchers in a gay pride parade, and many others.
While the surprise everyone emotes when meeting not one but two presidents
is at first amusing, it soon gets tiresome. Luckily, the dialogue is spry
enough to provide continual laughs throughout the movie. The plot is a
bit forced, but in order to set up its ex-presidents in a buddy/road movie
premise, it has to be. The film shys away from taking any strong political
stance...it tries hard to balance its barbs for both Republican and Democrat.
The strongest political stance it takes is making the scandalous figure a
Republican (though he actually seems to be politically neuter). The
screenplay doesn't take chances...it follows the formula, and does manage
to produce several humorous moments. It just ends up as light fluff,
and never gets any gut laughs.
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