REVIEW: ‘America: The Motion Picture’ is Total F***ing Star-Spangled Chaos

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America: The Motion Picture

When was the last time you really stopped to think about the story of America? More pointedly when was the last time you considered that the American experiment, when you really lay it all out, looks like something that came out of a mad scientist’s laboratory? We’re talking a once-in-history intersection of multiple colonizing cultures and political daredevils that all happened to be in the right place at the right time to create a national origin story that is unlike anything that had happened in history, up to that point. America: The Motion Picture captures the essence of that star-spangled chaos and approaches the story of America with humor, cynicism, and more chainsaws than you would expect.

In America: The Motion Picture, patriotic poster boy George Washington seeks to avenge the death of his best friend, Abraham Lincoln, and carry out Abe’s dream of founding a new nation. Standing in Washington’s way are total bad guy Brits Benedict Arnold and King James – looks like the Founding Father is going to need a little help. Washington enlists the services of bro and master brewer Sam Adams, science wiz Thomas Edison, acclaimed colonial horseman Paul Revere, and American legends like Geronimo in an epic revolution.

The film features a comedic Mount Rushmore of vocal talents including Channing Tatum, Jason Mantzoukas, Olivia Munn, Bobby Moynihan, Will Forte, Raoul Max Trujillo, and Killer Mike, with performances by Andy Samberg and Simon Pegg. Archer’s Matt Thompson sits at the helm of this cinematic jab in the ribs with screenwriter Dave Callaham.

America: The Motion Picture is a raucous jumble of recognizable names and events from American history fired at the audience in rapid succession – not dissimilar to my memories of taking American history courses in a Texas public school. This is not your granddaddy’s American history… in fact, it’s not history at all. In this utter purple mountains majesty fantasy, historical timelines crisscross and the greatest icons of American legend (total fabrication and real figures with immense liberties taken) come together in a who’s who of American mythology. It’s not wholly accurate to call America: The Motion Picture a revisionist history so much as a satirical study on the strange actors that shaped our culture.

Full-stop: America: The Motion Picture is hilarious. The assault is relentless and sight gags, snappy one-liners, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it snarky jabs come at you so quickly that there’s no way a single viewing is sufficient to catch every joke and aside. It’s hard to categorize the film as either silly or smart because it balances both the absurdity of its premise and the insight of its criticisms perfectly.

While it’s the wildly inventive animation that makes the film, America: The Motion Picture is exalted by its ensemble cast. Channing Tatum is an ideal fit for our All-American hero, George Washington, and Jason Mantzoukas takes the wide-open opportunity of a character like Sam Adams to its fullest. Some of the more notable performances include Raoul Max Trujillo and Killer Mike, who are given some of the absolute best lines in the script and deliver up America’s problematic history in a tone that’s always funny, always biting, but never preachy.

If there’s one thing that is sorely missing from the American socio-political discourse, it’s a sense of humor. America: The Motion Picture is an excellent reminder that, as Americans, it’s good to laugh at ourselves. The film does not shy away from hard topics, uncomfortable jokes, or social issues – in fact, it charges headlong into the problematic spaces in our history that many folks (esp. Republican lawmakers…) would prefer we ignore completely. The last thing I expected to feel while watching a movie in which Paul Bunyan has a Megazord-esque battle with Big Ben was the stir of patriotism.

America: The Motion Picture doesn’t just hit the mark, it blows the entire assignment out of the water. Bonkers and stylish animation meets totally brilliant writing and the final product is an American reflection that has no business being so much fun. It’s a piece that understands the moment and responds perfectly. This critic pledges allegiance!

America: The Motion Picture is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.

 

America: The Motion Picture
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

America: The Motion Picture doesn’t just hit the mark, it blows the entire assignment out of the water. Bonkers and stylish animation meets totally brilliant writing and the final product is an American reflection that has no business being so much fun. It’s a piece that understands the moment and responds perfectly. This critic pledges allegiance!