Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


The Distinguished Gentleman

The Distinguished Gentleman
Starring:
Eddie Murphy, Lane Smith, Charles Dutton, Gary Frank, Kevin McCarthy and Joe Don Baker


Rated: R For language.
Reviewed by: Frank  
Release date: December 4, 1992 Released by: Hollywood Pictures

The real Eddie Murphy is back playing Congressman Thomas Jefferson Johnson and using all his traditional comic skills in a delightful spoof of the election process and the House of Representatives.

Con man Thomas Johnson decides with good advertising, "Let's stay with Johnson", he can win an election to replace longtime Congressman Jim Johnson (James Garner) who died suddenly, while working late with a young, beautiful assistant.

The new Johnson never exposes his face to the public until election night, after he has won the seat. If this sounds far-fetched, it has roots in reality. John Kennedy was elected state treasurer in Massachusetts in the sixties, not JFK but someone who simply had the same name. In the seventies, a black candidate for alderman in a Western Massachusetts City did very well in the primary but not as well in the final elections when his picture was published for the first time by a local newspaper.

Much of what is in the script is based on exaggerated reality, twisted by Murphy's timing and cunning before the cameras. While Murphy doesn't exactly play Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, there are parallels. He challenges and exposes a congressional chairman, Dick Dodge, Played flawlessly by Lane Smith, who acts like Richard Nixon (whom he played in the mini-series Final Days). Along with the comedy of Murphy, impersonating other congressmen, agency heads and a devoted fan of the dead congressman, there is a demonstration of the dilemma elected officials face between various needs in a district. As one congressman says, "The fleas come with the dog."

Along with the greedy lobbyists and congressional leaders, Murphy deals with two reform congressmen played by Charles Dutton and Gary Frank(Family). He is also pulled by a reform lobbyist (Victoria Rowell) whom he wants to impress. The power brokers who promise to raise huge sums of campaign money are played by seasoned actors Kevin McCarthy and Joe Don Baker

With a perfect cast and Murphy free and funny, this should be a hit. By the way, it ends quite like the Broadway play How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. At the end of the play the retiring chairman of the board says "Take a letter, Dear Mr. President: Watch Out!" Could there be a sequel?

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