First Family (1980)

first-family

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: President discovers giant vegetables.

Manfred Link (Bob Newhart) is the current President of the United States. His 28-year-old daughter Gloria (Gilda Radner) is a raging nymphomaniac and his wife Constance (Madeline Kahn) a closet alcoholic. He travels with his family to the fictional nation of Upper Gorm because their active volcano harbors an energy source that could be used to propel nuclear energy. While there he comes upon some giant vegetables that they grow and learns that if he and the nation are willing to sacrifice one virgin per year he could harvest the same results, but with a price.

I’ve been a fan of writer/director Buck Henry for many years, so I’m not exactly sure what went wrong here, but it’s a disaster of epic proportions. Literally nothing is funny and many times just plain excruciatingly lame. It’s almost like they intentionally were trying to make a bad movie and see how many dumb jokes they could throw out before the viewer went screaming from the theater. Much of the humor gets badly botched with a good case in point being the scene where Newhart sips a drink made from goat urine and when he finds out what it is his face turns green, but this effect was done by shining a filtered spotlight on his face and it is very obvious making the effect like much of the movie seem quite hokey.

The movie would’ve worked better had the humor stayed linked to actual politics or what could occur to someone who actually worked in the White House. Instead they throw in any dumb joke that they can simply for the sake of a cheap laugh. The satire is extremely dated and has no connection at all to today’s political scene. The story thread dealing with the giant vegetables is not only stupid, but makes it seem like a material for a completely different genre like cheesy sci-fi.

I didn’t like Gilda Radner’s part at all. Having the secret service constantly chase her down every time she tries to make-out with a man might’ve been funny had the character been an oversexed teen, but this is a 28-year-old woman who has every right to sleep with anyone she wants no matter if her father is the President or not and she should’ve had her parents sued for trying to deny her civil rights.

The rest of the cast is pretty much wasted as well especially Rip Torn who’s given only 4 minutes of screen time. Harvey Korman is mildly amusing as the exasperated Ambassador and Bob Dishy elicits a few chuckles as the wimpy Vice President, but the highly talented Kahn gets stuck in a very unfunny role with her character’s alcoholism being an attempted, but very tasteless satirical stab at First Lady Betty Ford who did suffer from disease.

The filmed bombed badly at the box office and it’s easy to see why. It’s sloppily put together with no eye for detail. Not only is the comedy a dud, but everything else too including the filming of the outside of the island nation which was clearly shot in an indoor set as well as the scene that is supposedly shot in Minnesota, but shows mountains in the background. I was born and raised in Minny and believe me there are no mountains anywhere making me wonder if there was any thought put into this useless tripe at all.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: December 25, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Buck Henry

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD-R (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

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