If you’re going to get rid of it, go all the way.
If nothing else, that’s true for “America: The Motion Picture”. It is a decidedly blockbuster animated comedy that airs on Netflix on June 30. Make it a gleefully profane, blood-red, violent hit comedy that claims to tell the true story of America’s founding.
This is not the case. But when at first, a werewolf Benedict Arnold tears Abe Lincoln’s throat out as he watches a ‘Stomp’ type performance with his best mate George Washington – after he slaughters all the signatories of the Declaration of Independence – you will probably have understood that.
The film delves into his deranged version of the founding of the nation. It wears you out over time, but especially at first, he’s too satisfied to be shocking and irreverent. It’s in the vein, both visual and character, of “Archer,” which isn’t surprising, since director Matt Thompson won an Emmy for that show. But it’s a series. It’s a movie, and it needs to hit the target faster than it does.
Olivia Munn’s Thomas Edison is a Chinese woman in this take on history
Although these days, who knows what the QAnon crowd is teaching for history? Or what the state of Texas teaches, for that matter. Although this crowd doesn’t like the moment when Washington visits a Walmart type store to buy guns to arm revolutionaries. He wants guns that scream overreaction – hundreds of shots fired at anyone who shoots them.
And what does he plan to do with it, asks the clerk?
Hunt. Of course.
The dying Lincoln (voiced by Will Forte) begs Washington (Channing Tatum) to lead the revolution against Britain and King James (Simon Pegg) and to form America. OK, King George was the ruler of England during the American Revolution – it’s an “Animal House” style, “did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor” moment for a new generation. Not that funny, but more subtle. Kind of.
Either way, Washington, pushed by his wife Martha (Judy Greer), gathers a team to help him foment the revolution. There is Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn), who tells in this story about a woman of Chinese origin. She wants to fight because “rich whites keep telling people that science is not real.” Score one for contemporary combat.
He also enlists a not-so-bright Paul Revere (Bobby Moynihan), a boozy racist reveler Samuel Adams (Jason Mantzoukas) and a naturally suspicious Geronimo (Raoul Max Trujillo). Washington doesn’t have a lot of leadership qualities, but he has chainsaws sticking out of his sleeves.
Their plan is to find an address in Gettysburg where the evil Arnold (Andy Samberg) is planning a reunion. Various failures to find it include the sinking of the Titanic (“if anyone asks, we’ll say it hit an iceberg!”) And other bizarre interpretations of history and common sense. As well as a bizarre version of “The Imitation Game”.
There are, in fact, a lot of references to many movies and other pop culture artifacts. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren’t that funny. Betsy Ross and Tim Gunn design the uniforms they will wear in battle? It doesn’t matter.
But the film ends up arriving.
Channing Tatum and Judy Greer Click as George and Martha Washington
There is still something pleasantbeer is winning the revolution, even if science really does. And the star cast sells the characters. The tracks between Tatum’s Washington and Martha de Greer are comfortably quirky, and Munn is funny like Edison. Samberg has a bullet as an insanely horrible Arnold. Killer Mike as the blacksmith they convince to help them forge a quick fix – Arnold is a werewolf, remember – is a hoot.
The blacksmith has no faith in revolutionaries, because why would he? But he hates the British even more, so he reluctantly enlists.
Movies like this won’t hit with every joke attempt. We just hope for a good average, which is not great, but which improves over the course of the film.
By the time “Free Bird” becomes the national anthem and the Beastie Boys provide the fight soundtrack, “America: The Motion Picture” has gained enough momentum to start to woo you. And its message, one of the dangers of white privilege, racism, sexism, bigotry and willful ignorance, is always welcome, though it may or may not be lost to those who have it. Not needed anymore.
“America: the movie”, 2.5 stars
Super ★★★★★ Good
Correct ★★★ Bad ★★ Bomb ★
Director: Matt Thompson.
Discard: Channing Tatum, Simon Pegg, Judy Greer.
To note: Aired on Netflix on June 30.
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