‘America: The Motion Picture’ Is Netflix’s Ridiculous Reimagining of the American Revolution
The founding of our country has never looked as outlandish as it does in Netflix’s “America: The Motion Picture,” a juvenile animated feature for adults. It’s an alternative history of sorts, one in which George Washington (Channing Tatum) is lifelong best friend with Abe Lincoln (Will Forte). But the whole having Washington and Lincoln live in the same time period aspect is far from the most creative liberty taken by director Matt Thompson and writer Dave Callaham, as Washington is reimagined here as having chainsaw arms that he uses to go to war after werewolf Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg) kills Abe. With his dying breath, he asks his bestie to lead the revolution against the British, or the “Fun Police,” as the Redcoats are called here, and name the new nation America.
And it only gets even wackier from there. Following the funeral, George is convinced by his new girlfriend, Martha Dandridge (Judy Greer), whom we first see performing at the theater in which Abe is killed, to fulfill Abe’s dying wish. George would probably be content just drowning his sorrows in beer and sex, but he was given chainsaw arms for a reason. Martha connects him with Sam Adams (Jason Mantzoukas), a hypermasculine beer-guzzling bro. From there, they hook up with Paul Revere (Bobby Moynihan), a skilled jockey who is coded as being on the Autism spectrum and has no human friends, only horses.
Rounding out the crew are Geronimo (Raoul Trujillo), the Native American leader who agrees to help on the condition that his land is returned to him, Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn), reimagined here as a woman of Chinese descent, and Blacksmith (Killer Mike), a Black small business-owner who is commissioned to make a silver bullet that is to be used to take out Benedict. Trailblazing nurse Clara Barton (Megan Leahy) also pops up, using her skills to tend to an animal.
Meanwhile, Benedict is working with King James (Simon Pegg), portrayed here as a sloppy tyrant. The stakes rise after the Brits kidnap Martha, who’s now pregnant and married to George. Thompson and Callaham milk plenty of humor from stereotypes, but those that are too stupid to be offensive, such as the Brits’ supposed obsession with tea and their less-than-perfect teeth. They also have plenty of goofy fun playing around with America’s love of guns, beer and toxic masculinity.
While it has plenty of entertaining moments, “America: The Motion Picture” is too ridiculous to hold the attention of most viewers. The Gettysburg Address is a physical address here that George and company have to track down. From the title, one might expect something along the lines of “Team America: World Police,” but this movie is nowhere near as clever. It does at times try to tap into current issues, like Thomas, who is almost executed early as an accused witch, aims to promote science And, there’s an overarching theme about combating an abusive, imperialistic power. In the end, after George has “won,” he learns that he still has a lot of work ahead of him in order for Americans to achieve true equality, work that has still not been finished today in real life.
“America: The Motion Picture” begins streaming June 30 on Netflix.