America The Motion Picture

Directed By Matt Thompson

Starring – Channing Tatum, Simon Pegg, Judy Greer

The Plot – A chainsaw-wielding George Washington (Tatum) teams with beer-loving bro Sam Adams (Jason Mantzoukas) to take down the Brits in a tongue-in-cheek riff on the American Revolution.

Rated TV-MA for enhanced violence, brutality, adult language, nudity, and sexual situations

America: The Motion Picture | Channing Tatum | Official Trailer | Netflix – YouTube

POSITIVES

– A fresh take. This is obviously a satirical look at American history seen through the eyes of bro culture, in all of its factual inaccuracies and overblown hyperbole, but simultaneously one that entertained me consistently with the springing creativity that sprung from taking an ounce of truthful history, and reshaping it to create something entirely fresh. This not only helps with the effectiveness of the humor, which I will get to in a minute, but also proves that a lot of energy and time went into the detailing of historical events, so that the film could render each of them with sensationally awkward interpretations on matters that are more than just slightly outdated in concept. It’s not the most educational experience, but it never chooses to be. It’s very much an entertaining piece of animated fiction that quite literally turns off your brain, and immerses you in the boisterously bombastic ideal that is America, through the captivation of a rampant loveletter.

– Dazzling ensemble. Adding to the bro mentality that I previously mentioned, as well as the overall deconstructive practice to historical accuracy, the film’s casting also supplants an original approach to its iconic figures that allow each of them to make their respective roles their own in entirely new light. None more prominent than Channing Tatum, who ushers in enough charm and bravado to George Washington to balance the abundance of immaturity that saturates his characterization. Tatum is certainly having the time of his life, exuding an energy for delivery that zeroes in on the impeccable comedic timing that has given his career a second life, all the while bottling an intentional phoniness for politicians that fill his promises with empty results. In addition to Tatum, there’s exceptional turns from Jason Mantzoukas as Samuel Adams, Olivia Munn as Thomas Edison (Yes, you read that right), Bobby Moynihan as Paul Revere, and especially Andy Samberg, who is virtually unrecognizable as Benedict Arnold. Each of them are a nourishing ingredient to an overall bigger picture, and because of their comedic backgrounds supplant a stimulating experience that play to the opposite perception of each of their respective characters.

– Throwback animation. I love the decision to articulate the movie’s animated encompassing with a two-dimensional quality that feels virtually non-existent in contemporary times, with the exception of anime films. What this unique measure does for this production not only plays to the essence of animated propaganda films, complete with visual humor in the various backdrops and interactions, but also brings to life a comic appeal to the gruesome imagery that not even “Heavy Metal” could hold a candle to. When I say that this movie expresses itself, it really does, giving us brutality, gore, and even sexualization without relent, and made all the more imaginative with the immense character outlines that articulate these larger than life personalities. If I had one critique for it, it’s definitely the background aspects of each scene not mirroring the the speed in movements of the characters in the foreground, but the attention to brighter, bolder detail in the illustrations of the foreground grants a three-dimensional aspect to its appearance, maintaining the focus where it wholeheartedly belongs.

– Stimulating themes. Aside from this being an engaging experience based on its assertive energy and nonsensical humor, the script itself by writer Dave Callaham also has a unique way of instilling contemporary problems to historical setting, particularly in the ideals of racism, classism, gun control, and many others that are introduced brilliantly to the spectrum of a movie taking place in 1776. It conveys that these sociological plagues were very much a presence 250 years prior to where they stand currently, and just how unimportant each of them seemed to one man or group of men who modeled American ideals after their own image. This is most satisfyingly realized in the film’s final scene, where even after evading the Brits (Obviously not a spoiler), the real problems are still very much a presence, and initially begin the deconstruction of the united front that previously tackled their biggest adversity together.

– Indulging characterization. For an Avengers style team-up, this movie has a tremendous way of appealing to its various characters, especially considering there are as many as seven of them sharing the screen at any given moment. Most of this resides on the shoulders of first time feature length film director Matt Thompson, who stirs emphasis to every introduction, interaction, and action sequence that gives each of his pieces importance in their respective designs. It further helps that no two characters feel anything even remotely synonymous with one another, allowing their diversity in appearance, personality, and gifts to stimulate accordingly in the eyes of the audience, all the while fleshing out each of their familiar backstories with a degree of creative exploration that depicts them as the various superheroes previously aforementioned. It proves that Thompson has his finger on the pulse of what’s culturally prominent, and allows this film to serve as the big stage culmination from a career on credible animated shows, like “Archer”, “Frisky Dingo”, and the vastly underrated “Dicktown”.

 

NEGATIVES

– Exhausting experience. As to where I previously heralded the humor for registering so consistently with my interpretation, there’s a negatively adverse effect that materializes from its shotgun pacing of deliveries. Similar to 2015’s “The Lego Movie”, a funny film in its own right, the material never allows audiences the time to properly breathe and appreciate the lasting power of each punchline, which in turn creates no shortage of momentum leaps for the movie’s overall pacing. Particularly with the energy and thrills of the first act, it feels like the movie has doubled down on everything that it is and rightfully ever will be, and this is made all the more apparent with the following hour that maintains its pacing for storytelling and rapid fire humor consistently with what’s previously established. It makes for a 98 minute experience that feels twice of that because of the magnitude of material that never even remotely lets up nor elevates from where its plants its feet early on.

– Lackluster story. Even with the benefit of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller attached to this production, the film thematically never gets off the ground with its abundance of ambition that is quite literally leaping off of the screen in every single shot. This is realized in the arduous screenplay, which quite frequently tries to throw a lot at the screen in order to hide or suppress the idea that this film does so little to cohesively build both sides of the essential conflict. On top of this, the tonal consistency undercuts the ability for this film to branch out towards valuing the stakes of what should be hanging in the balance. This is definitely a raunchy comedy first, but that doesn’t mean that we have to sacrifice psychology in interpreting the spontaneous movements, which often feel like an array of opportunistic slinging at the proverbial wall, in order to see what will stick. Very little does, and it ultimately proves that this film would’ve better been suited as an experimental short film.

– Derivatively unfunny. For about the first half hour of this movie, I was thoroughly engaged in the meat of the material, which supplanted a couple of nourishing laughs that tickled my funny bone, and in turn instilled an air of promise to what would follow. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is an exercise in futility that feels like the most one-note version of Comedy Central’s Drunk History, only in this case more vulgarity substitutes creativity. I look at a film like 2004’s “Team America: World Police”, which simply didn’t rest on the ideals of its satirical nature, and instead surprised with stern social commentary that overlapped its comic material. The same can’t be said for “America the Motion Picture”, which is not only the worst kind of college frat humor, but also the kind that never evolves into something substantial for the benefit of the talent who work so hard to enhance it.

My Grade: 5/10 or D

3 thoughts on “America The Motion Picture

  1. I am curious about the film, but would it have been doable/better in your opinion if done as a live action as opposed to animated?

  2. I was kind of interested in this as the trailer looked very satirical and funny, but I didn’t have any plans to see it. Sounds like I’m not missing much. While I’m happy that the commentary is there, you’re section on just how unfunny the film ended up being is more than enough for me to stay far away. For a film with such a great premise and talented people behind it, I expected something way better. Great job!

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