America The Motion Picture: Review
America: The Motion Picture Synopsis: A chainsaw-wielding George Washington (Channing Tatum) teams with beer-loving bro Sam Adams (Jason Manztoukas) and other historical figures to take down the Brits in a tongue-in-cheek riff on the American Revolution.
After crafting comedic staples like 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have impressively transformed their initial success into a beloved brand. The duo keenly developed an impressive slew of innovative animated efforts, winning an Oscar for overseeing Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse while developing one of the year’s best films so far, The Mitchells vs. The Machines. I appreciate how they entrust a diverse array of talent, allowing filmmakers to pursue creative avenues that aren’t typically embraced by animation’s defining juggernauts.
Lord and Miller’s latest production, America: The Motion Picture, might be their most obtuse yet. Spewing with brash vulgarities and more than a little creative license, director Matt Thompson and screenwriter Dave Callaham craft their eccentric revisionist history with infectious wild-child energy. Sadly, this mildly amusing romp gets lost amidst an inconsistent array of juvenile pratfalls.
The nucleus for America: The Motion Picture is honestly quite brilliant. By clashing posh historical figures with the crass extremes of our modern zeitgeist, Callaham’s screenplay presents glimmers of thoughtful reflection. Some setpieces humorously take to task our storied forefathers, while others zero their sights on America’s evergrowing division. When the jokes hit, Callaham’s biting wit and observant insights help transcend the project’s stoner comedy form.
I can’t appreciate Callaham enough for his bold departure from standard conventionality. Combined with Thompson’s jagged yet spirited visuals (never thought I would see George Washington chainsaw dozens of British soldiers), the duo craft an audacious assault on America’s overly-lionized history. The energetic voice performances also help in selling the over-the-top lunacy. Channing Tatum and Jason Mantzoukas have a blast screeching profanities as beloved founding fathers, while Olivia Munn and Raoul Max Trujillo add sharpness as outside observers of the colony’s twisted practices.
America: The Motion Picture spotlights the kind of confrontational comedy I love to see. If only Callaham could replicate that formula throughout the entire duration. For every bit that works, Callaham peppers in a half-dozen or so flat modern references alongside the crass antics (here’s another comedy that confuses buzz word references as jokes). I like the conceit of altering American lore, but Callaham far too often resorts to button-pushing as a means of generating laughter. The more bizarre the gags get, the murkier the film’s intriguing vision becomes.
Callaham and Thompson’s film just isn’t succinct enough to represent its nuanced ideas. Far too often, the duo’s embrace of busy pratfalls only works to distract from the material’s purposeful bits. It’s a comedy that suffers from a failure of identity, ranging between Adult Swim-type shenanigans and political insights without ever merging the dissident identities.
America: The Motion Picture could have been a meaningful satire, but it ultimately reduces into the empty brashness that the filmmakers attempt to condemn. Still, I am thrilled this movie exists for its radical edge. Don’t be shocked if the film discovers a cult audience in the coming years.