Guarding Tess Review

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Doug Chesnic (Cage) can't wait to get away from the detail of bodyguard to former President's widow Tess Carlisle (MacLaine) - a beloved icon, but an old battleaxe of a woman. His frustration turns to dismay when she requests that he be made a permanent part of her entourage. He begrudgingly accepts the duty, and learns that someone is indeed plotting to kidnap her - or worse.


Cage, in clean-shaven, hapless nice-guy mode, plays a by-the-book US Secret Service agent, Doug Chesnic, whose exasperating and unglamorous assignment is heading the permanent bodyguard team detailed to president's widow Tess Carlisle (MacLaine). Former First Lady Tess is a beloved national icon, but she is a crotchety, heavy tippling, imperious grande dame who tyrannises her staff and takes particular delight in humiliating Doug. Understandably, he endeavours to be re-assigned to happening Washington D.C., and the antagonistic duo engage in an on-going battle of wills.

Basically the odd-couple formula applies: testy Tess and her frustrated watchdog - who are surrounded by a potentially colourful but understated staff including Austin Pendleton, Richard Griffiths and Doug's indistinguishable besuited fellow agents - stubbornly clash until their acknowledged mother-son affection is revealed by a dramatic crisis.

MacLaine bravely plays Tess as an ancient bag, but it was a misjudgement from her and writer/director Wilson to make her quite so unyielding and uncomedically annoying, while Cage's Doug is also too much on one note for them to rouse the required endearment out of a largely uneventful and slovenly script.

The problem with this nice little relationship picture is that the people responsible for it seem to have laboured under the delusion that they were making a comedy. It is, in fact, far from funny, although at moments it does touch upon amusing.