Released: 4th July
Seen: 5th July
You know, I probably should’ve watched this one on the 4th of July. Would’ve been more appropriate to watch a film supposedly celebrating America to watch on the 4th of July, even if I did release the review days later. Well, little behind the scenes trivia for you, I did try to watch it on the 4th of July but at the halfway mark I fell asleep so I figured I should probably watch it again when I was more awake.
Well, I have now done that and it turns out the problem wasn’t that I was too tired, but that America: The Motion Picture is just kind of boring.
America: The Motion Picture begins with the story of the American Revolution, except it’s told in the style of frat party films with a climax that feels more at place in a Marvel movie. Following the obscenely muscular jock-like George Washington (Channing Tatum) as he battles against the evil Werewolf Benedict Arnold (Andy Samburg).
The story follows George producing his own team of fighters that includes frat bro Sam Adams (Jason Mantzoukas), Chinese woman Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn) and Native American who really doesn’t trust the white people who he is forced to work with to defeat the other white people who he hates even more Geronimo (Raoul Trujillo). Together, with a few other members, they will fight against the British invaders in order to defend the new colony known as America.
So you probably noticed by the character descriptions that this film isn’t exactly going for subtlety, it’s a big bold over-the-top satire of history that’s also trying to be somewhat patriotic regarding the whole American ideals thing. As a concept this isn’t entirely awful, in fact taking the very American genre of the frathouse comedy and using that iconography as a way to tell a loose version of the American revolution could be hilarious… “Could” being the operative word because, despite its best intentions, for the most part this film’s jokes just don’t really seem to land.
What ends up happening is a bunch of extremely insane things get thrown at the audience, like the reveal that Benedict Arnold is a werewolf (we find this out when he turns and tears out Abraham Lincoln’s throat) or a sentient soccer ball that eats people, and sometimes they land but more often than not they just don’t work, either due to bad delivery or poor joke structure or just not making a lick of sense.
There are a few times when you can see something actually smart being done, most of these involving Geronimo who is basically there to point out how much the colonialists have kind of screwed him and his people over, but for the most part it’s dumb hackey jokes that just tend to land with a thud. When the film is actually trying to have a few critical jabs at America’s history you can actually see the potential for something interesting, like a loving roast of historical figures but when they do this they do it almost offhandedly, barely letting the joke actually sting before moving on to the next stupid moment. Almost like they were scared to really confront the issues of America’s past for fear of offending the same crowd who gets unnaturally upset at concepts like Critical Race Theory.
The only part that has a consistently decent tone, not even great but decent enough, is the final sequence where they have the big battle between the British and the Americans and it’s done as a cross between a Star Wars battle and the final shot of Avengers: Endgame. That one scene is actually quite good, using modern American cinema imagery to tell the story of America’s past in a way that’s actually funny… but it doesn’t really last that long and it’s right at the end, by that point most people would’ve probably turned this film off and I wouldn’t blame them for that.
America: The Motion Picture has an idea of what it’s doing, where it fails is the execution that ends up just falling completely flat. If you want a better film that actually tackles portions of America’s imagery that’s actually funny, go rewatch Team America: World Police because at least that film knows how to tell jokes and make a point, while America: The Motion Picture doesn’t really seem to understand how to do either of those things.