Imagine a world where the founding fathers of the United States of America played beer pong to determine what three words would start the would-be Declaration of Independence. Rush week during fraternity chants of “We the People” screamed louder by the distinguished men who fought for our freedom. Well, in America: The Motion Picture that alternate look at history is now tangible, it’s out there for those to consume on Netflix, it exists. Exactly why it exists, I don’t know – maybe as a tool designed to distract the world from the depression the global pandemic put everyone in.
Throw out the history books for this one, America: The Motion Picture tells a different history than the one that actually occurred. It’s a tongue and cheek version of the birth of the United States independence from King James’s (Simon Pegg) British rule in 1776. Style is chosen well over substance here given the level of bat shit crazy happening on screen within every frame of this motion picture. Forget the high education law jargon with how the actual forefathers spoke to one another and replace that with an adult-swimish drunk history version as told if George Washington (Channing Tatum) led a frat house. I couldn’t make up the events and how they happened in this motion picture if I tried. I couldn’t even recount them If I’m really being honest, it’s that absurd of a story contrived by screenwriter Dave Callaham.
George Washington literally fights redcoats with dual chainsaws. Stupid yes, but to the right person it may come off as the highest piece of fiction ever created. I’d love to meet that person; they have my respect for liking something so trivial.
There’s a clear direction and impression the film is going in by adding current day pop culture stereotypes and adding it to ye-olden times and it works, some of the time – most of it being extremely out of touch, reaching for an audience who may not identify with the themes that made it to the final cut. Its ambitious, certainty but at what cost does the mockery go too far? How many jokes about misogyny are too many? Yes, looking at you Sam Adams (Jason Mantzoukas) when asking for a male Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn) instead of the female POC version that can wield magic like she’s Gandalf. Don’t act like the #metoo movement never happened. That one line alone is enough for any logical person to immediately turn this film off for find something else to watch in the Netflix library.
Maybe the events depicted in America: The Motion Picture can exist in a parallel universe inside a different dimension and that’s fine and all but perhaps they should stay there permanently.
Thrown together are a plethora of major global events and pop culture references mixed into one story told here. Abe Lincoln being George Washington’s best friend during the assassination, the sinking of the titanic, a battle worthy of The Lord of the Rings mixed with Marvel’s Avengers, At-At’s dressed as double decker buses, Abe coming back as a force Ghose President, a socially- self aware commentary on how the country has acted the past few years while Washington says they will mess this up and a lousy cover of “Free Bird”.
all of that just in time for the Fourth of July holiday. I’ll still rewear here Independence Day each year than sit through this.
While some of the humor is genuinely funny that can cause a chuckle or two (there aren’t that many cases of this) most of it is for a specific audience. America: The Motion Picture is not a film for everyone. But for who its targeted too, it can be a fun watch, just remember to turn your brain off for 98 minutes while the action happens.
For the big names of American heroics past that appear, the voice cast is just as impressive from top to bottom. And although its well casted, there’s a glaring discrepancy with the talent and the content within the script. Sure, Paul Revere (Bobby Moynihan) is a solid choice for a film of this caliber given his SNL credit, same with Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg) and Abe Lincoln (Will Forte) who gets killed by Arnold after Arnold turns into a werewolf. John Wilks Booth (Kevin Gillese) was a merchandise vendor for this assassination retelling.
America: The Motion Picture reminds me of Whose Line is it Anyway where everything is made up and the story doesn’t matter. I’d bet money that Wayne Brady, Ryan Styles and Colin Mochrie could come up with a better story here. This is more of a back half tail end SNL skit right before 1am when the writers have fully run out of good ideas and are willing to do just about anything at that point.
For what it’s worth, turn your brain completely off, go in with the lowest expectations known to mankind and kick back, America: The Motion Picture won’t provide much more than true escapism beyond that. That’s the only way a film satire like this can be enjoyed.
America: The Motion Picture is written by Dave Callaham, directed by Matt Thompson is Rated TV-MA and has an 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. America: The Motion Picture was released on June 30, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 38 minutes. America: The Motion Picture can be streamed on Netflix. 1.5 out of 5.