It’s safe to say, I don’t believe your high school history classes taught you the version of the Revolutionary War that is presented in the animated action movie America: The Motion Picture, in which a positively ripped George Washington (appropriately voiced by Channing Tatum) avenges the death of his best friend Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), after he is assassinated by Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg), who also happens to be a a werewolf. In truth, this fictional version of events is far more cinematic and cool than what really happened.
Directed by animation veteran Matt Thompson (Sealab 2021, Archer), produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and written by Dave Callaham (The Expendables, the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the current Mortal Kombat), there’s something about this combination of talent that brings this revisionist tale of historical figures coming together to defeat the British occupiers that isn’t any more concerned with political correctness than it is with historical accuracy.
Borrowing heavily from current pop culture/action movie iconography, America opens with the aforementioned assassination of Lincoln by Arnold, who is secretly working for King James (Simon Pegg, an absolute highlight). When Washington realizes what he’s up against, he decides to piece together a fellowship/superhero team/league of extraordinary gentlepeople and scoundrels to fight the British hordes and free America. Among those he recruits are frat-bro Samuel Adams (Jason Mantzoukas); inventor and science supporter Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn); world-renowned tracker Geronimo (Raoul Max Trujillo); blacksmith John Henry (Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike), whom everybody thinks is named Black Smith; and master horseman and likely walking brain injury Paul Revere (Bobby Moynihan). Judy Greer is also on hand as George’s love interest (and fully stacked future wife) Martha Dandridge, and together this team begins their fight for justice.
The film has no issues pointing out the hypocrisies of the American Revolution, which really only resulted in the freedom of white men, making the presence of some of this team a little dicey. Geronimo thinks he’s fighting to get native lands restored to their original owners; John Henry thinks he’s fighting to end slavery; Edison believes she’s fighting for equal rights and science. If they didn’t all agree that life would be better without the British, this team wouldn’t have much to talk about at a party.
The humor here can be as broad and boisterous as it is razor sharp and laser focused, but the pacing of both the action, jokes and general absurdity of the situations is relentless to the point where you barely notice the gags that don’t land. Much like its namesake, America doesn’t skimp on the cartoon bloodshed, four-letter words, and sex (okay, there isn’t that much sex, and what’s here doesn’t hold a candle to Team America, which I’m assuming people will compare this film to). The final battle scene is just one ridiculous moment after another with references to Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Transformers, Robocop, and pretty much any other recent action movie franchise you can name. The goal here is outrageous fun, mocking the re-writing of history to serve political agendas, and a deep appreciation of the possibilities within the genre of history. I’m guessing you’ll know within two minutes of watching if this film is for you, but it’s as audacious and excessive as our Founding Parents would have wanted it.
The film is now streaming on Netflix.
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