Film Review: America: The Motion Picture

america the motion picture indexThe first movie from Matt Thompson, the creator of Frisky Dingo and Sealab 2021, and writer Dave Callaham (Doom, The Expendables and, ugh, Wonder Woman 1984) the central idea here is that it tells an over the top violent fantastical version of the story of America, and the main joke is that all of the many famous historical figures it features largely speak in a modern vernacular and are sex and alcohol obsessed types who bare a fare resemblance to the most macho frat boys that you could imagine.

It’s not a bad joke either, where right at the very beginning Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte) and George Washington (Channing Tatum) are hanging out together at the theatre where they’re going to see the White, Red and Blue Man Group and celebrating their friendship by buying “Best Buds” t-shirts, when Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg) turns up to spoil the party killing Lincoln and it’s revealed he’s a werewolf. He’s teamed up with King James (Simon Pegg) and now plans to take over the country, and probably the world too, but Washington is persuaded by his wife Martha (Judy Greer) to form a team and take revenge.

This team is made up of the sexist and racist Samuel Adams (Jason Mantzoukas), the incredibly stupid Paul Revere (Bobby Moynihan) and his occasionally talking horse Clyde, the super scientist Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn) who just happens to be an Asian Woman, much to everyone’s initial confusion, the far smarter than nearly everyone else Geronimo (Raoul Max Trujillo) and a blacksmith (Killer Mike) whose name they never learn as they’re definitely racist idiots sometimes.

It could have been a far, far sharper film and much more scathing of the ways of America, but frustratingly the satire is pretty toothless and largely relates to how American’s don’t realise how sexist and racist they are, that the ability to buy guns is far too easy, while they’re in denial about Vietnam (seen here as a pub that they destroy and then make gags about for the rest of the movie), while the English are greedy arrogant turds. Right at the end it delivers but it’s too little too late, making this a definite missed opportunity as it comes very close to being very funny but chooses to go for the dumb joke over the smart one far too often.

Thompson wrote for Archer and this definitely is quite similar in places, Samuel Adams is an insensitive Archer type and delivers many a pithy insult, while Edison is quite like Lana as bar Geronimo, who sods off for a fair chunk of the movie, she’s the only one on the team with any sense. There’s a good few pop culture references as well, many of which are only okay, though the manner in which Geronimo is introduced is nicely amusing, the way Paul Revere turns up for the final battle in a very funny reveal, as is the fact that the British double decker’s resemble something from a very famous sci-fi movie.

Indeed on the action front when it’s sending up braindead spectacles it’s a pretty funny movie, over time these characters become quite endearing as they grow as people and stop being quite so stupid and offensive, and Edison gets to do some very cool science stuff throughout the running time. It’s a shame they didn’t really savage the many insane elements of America’s past as they occasionally hint at doing and it’s a bit of a missed opportunity, but if you’re ready to forgive what it’s lacking in satire it almost makes up for it with inventive daftness, and is a decent enough watch if you drink as much alcohol as the characters in the film do.

★★★1/4

Alex Finch.
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