America: The Motion Picture, 2021.
Directed by Matt Thompson.
Featuring the voice talents of Channing Tatum, Jason Mantzoukas, Olivia Munn, Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan, Judy Greer, Will Forte, Raoul Max Trujillo, Killer Mike, Simon Pegg, Amber Nash, Kevin Gillese, Megan Leahy, and Matt Yates.
A chainsaw-wielding George Washington teams with beer-loving bro Sam Adams to take down the Brits in a tongue-in-cheek riff on the American Revolution.
Call me a woke America-hating liberal if you want, but as each year goes by with society forgetting more and more what it means to be an American (notwithstanding the complicated history and disgraceful sides of these forefathers), it’s increasingly difficult to get excited about celebrating Independence Day. If anything, it’s now the obnoxious holiday where some asshole is setting off fireworks until 5 AM, ignoring the rules, curfew, and, nowadays, probably health safety precautions as well. With that in mind, I had some reservations going into America: The Motion Picture. This hard-R hand-drawn animated feature could have reinforced and justified all of the above problems while being just as irritating in execution. The film is also directed by Matt Thompson, who is known for creating the Adult Swim cartoon Sealab 2021, a TV show I was never really fond of (in its defense, most cartoons on that network never gelled with my comedic taste in the first place).
And there is definitely a jingoistic approach to the material (Matt Thompson uses a script from Wonder Woman 1984 scribe David Callahan, who has undoubtedly regained my trust after this). However, it’s not just appropriately over-the-top with a penchant for rewriting history, instead doing so in a way that pokes fun at frat culture, addresses racism of the times, and gender inequality, all while emphasizing the importance of science and befriending outcasts. Also, before you get the impression that because America: The Motion Picture is decently committed to inclusivity and diversity (without letting America’s forefathers or certain Americans today off the hook, as seen in a bleakly hilarious final scene), this is also a movie where Channing Tatum voices a chainsaw-wielding George Bon Jovi Washington who, as much as he is leading the American Revolution, is trying to avenge his best friend, Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte) murdered by none other than a werewolf Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg).
That’s nowhere near the tip of the iceberg of the lunacy on display here (speaking of icebergs, the Titanic also makes an appearance as the script seemingly never runs out of energy or ideas for manipulating the past into absurdity). George Washington is tasked with putting together a team (following some grief consolation sex with Judy Greer’s Martha Dandridge, of course, also offering the occasional wisdom nugget) of revolutionaries to overthrow the British (Simon Pegg voices King James, depicted here as morbidly obese and operating a wheelchair throne attached to an obelisk). This includes party animal dudebro and racist Sam Adams (Jason Mantzoukas), and far more creative characters such as an Asian female take on Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn) experimenting with electricity as a weapon, John Henry Smith (Killer Mike) as a Black blacksmith, Bobby Moynihan’s Paul Revere as a heavyset misfit joining the team to gain some friends aside from his trusty horse Clyde, and Native American tracker Geronimo (Raoul Max Trujillo) who is both valuable and points out the racism of Sam Adams. Meanwhile, there is a language cross-up as Paul Revere wears the label of fastest racist with pride.
They must put their collective heads together and find the Gettysburg Address location while working on appreciating their differences in terms of outward appearance and personality. Essentially, it leads to a shamelessly excessive “America fuck yeah” take on the War of Attrition that has everything from classic rock songs to mythical creatures to a scientific showdown between beer and tea. The final boss battle here is so insane and unabashedly American with playful charm that it’s enough to cement this as an annual Independence Day watch.
America: The Motion Picture smartly doesn’t let viewers, particularly Americans feel good about the victory for long, reminding us of our doomed reality. The jokes don’t always land (some of them are way too reliant on inventions that don’t exist yet), but an abundance of ludicrous, violent, raunchy imagination sparks a revolution worth watching.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com