Jeff Johnson is a Floridian con artist, who uses the passing of a congressman, also called Jeff Johnson, to get elected to con artists' heaven - Congress. Once there, however, he decides to turn the tables.
Another feature-length commercial for Eddie Murphy's dental work, this finds the formerly fast-talking comedian bereft of throwaway lines worth throwing away and resorting to endless flashes of his amazingly perfect, neon-lit teeth.
With obvious overtones of Born Yesterday (know-nothing lowlife turns patriotic) and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (freshman congressman mixed up with corrupt elder statesmen), The Distinguished Gentleman is a lazily slung together collection of clichés, mixing diet politics with laughter-free comedy.
Jeff Johnson (Murphy), a slick con-man whose name happens to be the same as that of a recently deceased Florida Congressman (James Garner), is eager to get into the big-bucks feather-bedding rife in the capital. Skilled in small-time graft, he coasts through an election thanks to the apathetic stupidity of the voters, but, inevitably, a pretty eco-lobbyist and a few lone men of integrity inspire him to turn his unethical tricks to honest ends by unseating the Nixonian sleaze (Smith) who chairs the Power And Energy Committee.
Brit director Jonathan Lynn worked on Yes Minister long enough to know what political satire is supposed to be, but the wit and observation of that show are buried here under hamfisted slush. Murphy occasionally does uninterrupted seconds of shtick, but the film is stuffed with cheap sentiment (a kid with cancer), extraneous characters and embarrassing simplistic politics.
If it's news to you that corruption is a bad thing, then you might be able to cheer along as Eddie single-handedly cleans up Congress; otherwise, beware.