The film's plot is centered on politics, specifically what members of the Congress and lobbyists do to get what they want in Washington, D.C.
A Florida con man named Thomas Jefferson Johnson uses the passing of the longtime Congressman from his district, Jeff Johnson (who died of a heart attack while having sex with his secretary), to get elected to Congress, where the money flows from lobbyists. Shortening his middle name and calling himself "Jeff" Johnson, he receives the 5000+ signatures required to be on the ballot by becoming endorsed by a seniors organization, the Silver Foxes.
Once on the election ballot, he uses the dead Congressman's old campaign material and runs a low budget campaign that appeals to name recognition, figuring most people do not pay much attention and simply vote for the "name you know." He wins a slim victory and is off to Washington, a place where the "streets are lined with gold."
Initially, the lucrative donations and campaign contributions roll in, but as he learns the nature of the con game in Washington D.C., he starts to see how the greed and corruption makes it difficult to address issues such as campaign finance reform, environmental protection, and the possibility that electric power companies may have a product that is giving kids in a small town cancer.
In trying to address these issues, Congressman Johnson finds himself double-crossed by Power and Industry chairman Dick Dodge. Johnson decides to fight back the only way he knows how: with a con. Johnson succeeds and exposes Dodge as corrupt. As the film ends, it appears likely that Johnson will be thrown out of Congress for the manner in which he was elected.
- Eddie Murphy as Thomas Jefferson Johnson
- Lane Smith as Dick Dodge
- Sheryl Lee Ralph as Miss Loretta
- Joe Don Baker as Olaf Andersen
- James Garner as Jeff Johnson
- Victoria Rowell as Celia Kirby
- Grant Shaud as Arthur Reinhardt
- Kevin McCarthy as Terry Corrigan
- Charles S. Dutton as Elijah Hawkins
- Victor Rivers as Armando
- Chi McBride as Homer
- Sonny Jim Gaines as Van Dyke
- Noble Willingham as Zeke Bridges
Eddie Murphy appeared in this Disney-produced film after a string of Paramount Pictures star vehicles. Bernie Weinraub, film reviewer for The New York Times, offered his opinion that Murphy wished to "move beyond the tepid material" he had been given by Paramount. Writer and producer Marty Kaplan said of Murphy's involvement "I feel like I've come close to winning the jackpot".
It was released in December 1992 and went on to gross approximately $47 million at the domestic box office. Critical reaction to the movie however was mostly negative. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times liked the premise and what it had going for it, but criticized it for its "slow pacing", despite it being a screwball comedy. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly called it "a sterile, joyless comedy, photographed in ugly, made-for-video close-up and featuring a farce plot so laborious it suggests John Landis on a bad day". eFilmCritic.com called it a "tepid Eddie Murphy political farce", and the film currently holds a 13% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Environmental Media Awards granted the movie with the award for feature film of 1993, and in 2001 the Political Film Society awarded the film its special award of the year.
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