- Movie Rating -

Americathon (1979)

| August 10, 1979

What a colossal chunk of nothing is Americathon!  What a waste of time and talent and energy has been put in service of this collection of abysmal nothingness.

And worse, it’s not a terrible idea.  I suppose that the basic idea was rather tasty: a political satire set in the future world of 1998 in which the United States finally runs out of money and starts defaulting on its debts (glad that could never happen) so the government hires a P.R. specialist Eric McMerkin (Peter Riegert) who devises a plan to hold a telethon in which the population will donate money to help pay off the $400 billion debt.  Okay, so far so good, and if it were handled with kid gloves and with the slightest of care this could work.  Unfortunately, Americathon is not handled with kid gloves or the slightest of care.  It has all the subtlety of a four-year-old banging pots and pans on the floor, and it’s just about as pleasant.

Right way, the whole movie goes berserk.  There are so many jokey ideas in here, so much screaming, so many people crowding into the movie to be funny that the result is a splitting headache.  The President Chet Roosevelt (John Ritter) is a relentless womanizer who preaches a calming sort of New Age philosophy while operating the country out of a sublet condo in Southern California called “The Western White House.”  That’s not funny.

The telethon is an insufferable affair hosted by a drugged up TV star named, get this, Monty Rushmore (played by Harvey Korman in an embarrassing performance) and mostly overtaken by the present of an irritating (and offensive) Vietnamese singer who specializes in something called Puke Rock.  Absolutely not funny.

The President’s Chief of Staff, Vincent Vanderhoff (Fred Willard), wants to sabotage the whole affair because he believes that he can use the debt situation to sell the country off to America’s chief rival, an alliance of Arabs and Israelis called The United Hebrab Republic who have put aside their differences and became a corrupt and greedy world power.  I can’t COUNT the ways that’s not funny.

Even less funny than that are cameos by Jay Leno as a boxer, Meatloaf as a stuntman, Tommy Lasorda, George Carlin, Elvis Costello, Richard Schaal, Howard Hesseman and Zelda Rubinstein.  None of whom are funny.

Americathon is torture to sit through.  There is no discipline here, no place for the audience to plant its feet.  It’s loaded with gags that feel like they were written at the moment but never really thought out.  The scenes are played at the level of a screaming match.  This movie dares you to like it.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized