A deliberately anachronistic tale of the American Revolution
THE WASHINGTON POST – As the 4th of July celebrations unfold, the new Netflix animated film America: the movie is the cinematic equivalent of a three-foot-long hot dog followed by a triple fried Twinkie drizzled with a barely cold drink.
Sporadically intelligent but mostly lazy, director Matt Thompson’s gory and intentionally anachronistic tale of the American Revolution follows a George Washington (voiced by Channing Tatum) so muscular it would give an Arnold Schwarzenegger body image issues at the time. by Reagan. Oh, and he’s chasing a werewolf Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg) with the help of a motley group of misfit Founding Fathers and his own chainsaw hands (Wolverine image, but with cherry blossoms).
The gap between stupid-smart and just plain stupid seems endlessly wide looking at America: the movie, which clearly targets the first but lands squarely in the second. Thompson is an Executive Producer on FXX’s James Bond Parody Archer, which, in its first life-giving years, exemplified stupid and intelligent comedy with its then-novel setting (a palimpsest of the 1960s, 1980s and 2010) and its exuberant missions of no consequence.
Making Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte) Washington’s best mate, Thompson and writer Dave Callaham (Zombieland: double tap) here brings this major to historical fidelity, to the piquant effect. In the middle of the film, Washington and his revolutionary team discover a club called Vietnam where Arnold’s superior, King James (Simon Pegg) is hiding. The Founding Fathers might storm the lair full of henchmen, but one of the heroes notes that the brash plan could end in a “quagmire.” Ha ha?
The one thing that isn’t as obvious as Ms. Washington’s (Judy Greer’s) future balloon boobs is how ironic the script’s heavy reliance on formula is supposed to be. There’s quite a bit of character development revelation (taking them from the fineness of paper to the depth of a puddle), but every plot point is about as pre-set as videos of fireworks incidents uploaded to YouTube on the morning of July 5.
After a lupine Benedict Arnold rips Lincoln’s throat out at Ford’s Theater – Old Faithful really should be named after those obligatory blood geysers – Washington vows to avenge his friend’s death and fulfill his last wish to found a new country called America. (Why would Lincoln want that? Why would you expect this movie to answer that question?) Washington first engages a fratty Samuel Adams (Jason Mantzoukas) in his fight against the redcoats, although the good old boy not be sure the new country he wants to exist should be hospitable to anyone other than rich white males.
Paul Revere (Bobby Moynihan, delivering the only standout performance of the stacked voice cast) joins the duo in no time; a science champion Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn); and a reluctant but resigned Geronimo (Raoul Max Trujillo), who hopes the new country will return some of the settler land to the original inhabitants.
I’m inclined to think that Thompson and Callaham decided to make their plot predictable, if only to make the movie’s surprises pop even more. But that gives us very little reason to worry about the story, which implies the phrase “teabagging” because it takes place in the 1770s (-ish) and because the fruits at hand are the main one. export from “America”. I had a good laugh at the re-use of the term “racist” in this universe, which has more to do with horses than white supremacy, but the joke (repeated apparently half a dozen times) also underscores just how much the film balances without grace his desire to pay homage to the democratic ideals of the Founding Fathers with their extremely limited views on who should be able to pursue or exercise them.
For a very narrow slice of the country’s population, however, America: the movie could inspire a new tradition: smash a can of beer on the forehead and chat with a friend about who is the most patriotic figure: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter or George Washington, Chain-Saw Hands.