America: The Motion Picture Movie Review: A not-so-hysterical historical


When actual werewolf Benedict Arnold (played by a too-gleeful Andy Samberg) proceeds to put an exclamation point to his defection to the British side by ripping Abraham Lincoln's throat out, Abe's best friend George Washington (Channing Tatum in a bit of perfect himbo casting) promises to uphold the dying man's wish to stick it to the "fun police" and give America its independence. All this happens in the first few minutes of America: The Motion Picture, Netflix's new animated movie that will send historians for a loop.

To call this a "loose retelling" of the American Revolution is incredibly generous. Historical accuracy is the least of director Matt Thompson and writer Dave Callahan's concerns, as they set out not to tell the story of a young nation's rise to power but to take a few healthy jabs at its currently inflated ego. Here, America's founding fathers are either airheaded jocks or simpletons who mean well, and all are white males who speak exclusively at a higher volume. Jason Mantzoukas' Samuel Adams (reimagined as a beer-guzzling fratboy without a single intelligent thought) is murder to the eardrums and to common sense in every single scene he's in, a fact not lost to guys like Geronimo (Raoul Trujillo) the Native American or the female Chinese immigrant Thomas Edison (no, really) played by Olivia Munn.

And therein lies what little charm America: The Motion Picture has, as it's also not afraid to make fun of racism, gender inequality, lack of gun control, smart shaming and white male privilege in some clever jokes that would fly over the heads of some of the audience. If you're not laughing, the joke's about you. The zingers fly a mile a minute, and you can see shades of the sharp wit of Archer and Sealab 2021, both of which were directed and produced by Matt Thompson as well. It's a shame then that the rest of the movie is incredibly dumb to make the social satire clever by comparison.

By the time you get to the final act, all sense and historical fact is thrown out the window, as the battle for democracy devolves into laser gun battles against the British as armed Americans gun down Redcoats in AR-15s ("But once the war is over though, I definitely need them back," says Washington. "They're just waaay too dangerous for civilians to keep."). The animation is great though, a higher quality than I expected for a movie like this.

You gotta hand it to them, though. America: The Motion Picture knows it's obnoxious, loud, and dumb. It struts confidently in its incorrectness to give the story of a United States that can laugh at itself. If you're in the mood to see history massacred by fratboys with guns, you could do worse than checking this out.

America: The Motion Picture is now streaming on Netflix.

Post a Comment