When Netflix announced America: The Motion Picture, I was greatly intrigued. I needed to know where this story was heading with a description that casually begins with a chainsaw-wielding George Washington. From director Matt Thompson and writer Dave Callaham comes a take on history that is completely and sometimes hysterically inaccurate. And in true American fashion, the film believes in the idea of ‘go big or go home.’
DISCLAIMER: I’ll be trying to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. But bear in mind that some might slip through the cracks. If you want to go into America: The Motion Picture blind, might I suggest popping over to the Netflix page and watching it first.
America: The Motion Picture opens by completely disregarding every history textbook from New Jersey to Califonia. The big bad Benedict Arnold (voiced by Andy Samberg) takes out the other Founding Fathers before catching a play with Washington (voiced by Channing Tatum) and Abe Lincoln (voiced by Will Forte). Things go rather south when Abe dies and Washington decides he is tired of the British and that tax stuff and starts a revolution against Arnold and King James (voiced by Simon Pegg) because he was totally the King of England during that time.
Of course, any good revolution leader needs his team. Washington pulls together the beer-drinking racist frat boy Samuel Adams (voiced by Jason Mantzoukas), a not-so-bright Paul Revere (voiced by Bobby Moynihan), a Chinese-American female Thomas Edison (voiced by Olivia Munn), an understandably suspicious Geronimo (voiced by Raoul Max Trujillo) and our favorite Blacksmith – Blacksmith (voiced by Killer Mike). And this team wouldn’t be anywhere if they didn’t have Martha Washington (voiced by Judy Greer) there to push them forward.
America: The Motion Picture relies heavily on absurdity, over-the-top antics and movie/pop-culture references to get viewers laughing in their seats. And I laughed because sometimes the jokes were funny. And because sometimes what was happening on screen was so absurd, I didn’t know what to think. Some jokes weren’t even inherently funny but came across better thanks to the cast’s delivery. I really wonder how funny this would have really been had they cast other people? Would anyone else be able to play off of each other as well as Tatum and Greer? I honestly don’t think so.
But laughs aside, the film does suffer from uneven pacing that changes more often than Washington’s mood swings. There is so much jammed into the front of the film that it was sometimes overwhelming. Trying to keep track of what was happening in-between moments of total chaos was fun the first and second time. By the middle of the film, it was exhausting. Thankfully, the second half of America: The Motion Picture evens the pacing out and brings it all back for an unexpected fantastic ending battle.
Now surprisingly, one of the best pieces of America: The Motion Picture isn’t the antics and absurdity, but the more subtle and not so subtle social commentary. The film openly points the finger at the faults within American history instead of glossing over them. Geronimo spends the entire film reminding the others of the horrors they have caused on his people. Blacksmith even points out how stupid it sounds when a bunch of white guys want him, the only black guy, to stand guard for them. These moments would shine through more if the film wasn’t trying everything to get you to laugh the entire time. But I’m happy it’s there nonetheless.
So should you watch America: The Motion Picture? If absurd and over-the-top jokes make you laugh, then definitely. It doesn’t pretend to be any more than what it is. Roughly 100 minutes of non-stop jokes and an incredibly ridiculous inaccurate story of American history. And while it doesn’t hit every joke out of the park, chances are you will find something to laugh at before the credits roll.
America: The Motion Picture is available to watch now on Netflix.
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