Anyone reading this probably knows the story of America. Whether they know the whole story, main events, or bits and pieces. What if those bits and pieces were ground up, liquified and poured down the throat of some unsuspecting Business Finance major? That’s the best way I can describe America: The Motion Picture. A film that feels like a couple frat bros recounting as much as they can about U.S. History before heading to a bar. It’s honestly a Super Bro Movie.
The film follows George Washington (Channing Tatum) as he assembles a team to combat the Brits. The team consists of Samuel Adams (Jason Mantzoukas), Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn), Paul Revere (Bobby Moynihan), and Geronimo (Raoul Max Trujillo). They set out across what will soon be known as “America” and tells the story of how this great nation (probably) came to be. Tatum really hams it up as a bro-y George Washington. Mantzoukas does what he always does and it still works. And I really enjoyed Munn’s Thomas Edison and her plight with a nation full of science-deniers.
The film feels like an homage to action films (especially the original Star Wars) with historical figures taking the place of more traditional action heroes. George Washington has chainsaws he wears around his arms; Thomas Edison uses technology to fly around like she’s Iron Man; and Paul Revere being considered the fastest “racist” (horse racer). The viewer knows what they’re in for from the very first scene that involves a slightly different retelling of the Declaration of Independence signing.
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The animated Netflix film comes from producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse), director Matt Thompson (Archer), and writer Dave Callaham (The Expendables). Lord and Miller have been known for their rapid fire joke-telling and this film is no exception. The result is each line of dialogue includes a joke or historical reference. The movie’s jokes are so quick and wide-ranging that our characters go from confusing a blacksmith’s name as “Black Smith” (Killer Mike) to a subtle conversion joke of imperial to metric tons. As a result, the film feels dense and doesn’t let up until the end. This film works best on a streaming platform that allows the viewer to rewind as many times as needed.
The film tries to touch on some of America’s less-than-perfect past. The most reoccurring of which is the mistreatment of Native Americans by “rich, old, white dudes” and the stealing of their land. The film acknowledges what happened about the same way Family Guy would handle it. That is, to make a crude joke and move on. I would have liked to have seen the film tackle some of these heavier issues more head-on and not shy away from them. The film does it’s best to remain set in “1776”. However, it can’t help itself from getting a few pot-shots in on the current state of our country.
The film is a fun watch for just about everyone. It gives you an Avengers: Endgame-esque finale where Babe the Blue Ox fights a Big Ben Transformer. It’s crude humor and unique twist on American History makes it an entertaining, yet dense, watch.
America: The Motion Picture is streaming on Netflix.