America: The Motion Picture is one of those films that looks fantastic from a trailer. It touts a great cast, a great premise, and some laughs. What it doesn’t do, however, is capitalize on any of that. The film promises historical bending action and huge comedy, but at the end of the movie (if you get through it), you’re left wondering “What the hell did I just watch?”.

The premise of America: The Motion Picture goes like this:

In this wildly tongue-in-cheek animated revisionist history, a chainsaw-wielding George Washington assembles a team of rabble rousers — including beer-loving bro Sam Adams, famed scientist Thomas Edison, acclaimed horseman Paul Revere, and a very pissed off Geronimo — to defeat Benedict Arnold and King James in the American Revolution. Who will win? No one knows, but you can be sure of one thing: these are not your father’s Founding… uh, Fathers.

That sounds interesting enough, right? The cast makes it sound even better, it stars Channing Tatum, Jason Mantzoukas, Olivia Munn, Bobby Moynihan, Judy Greer, Will Forte, Raoul Max Trujillo, Killer Mike, with Simon Pegg and Andy Samberg. So with a cast and crew including the producers of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Expendables, it feels like it should have been a home run.

Where America: The Motion Picture Goes Wrong

AMERICA: THE MOTION PICTURE – (Pictured) Channing Tatum as “George Washington”. Cr: America, The Motion Picture, LLC. © 2021

The film starts off somewhat strong. You’re introduced to George Washington (Channing Tatum) and Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte) and see what the film is all about. It’s an exaggerated look at America’s history through the eyes of what looks to be a huge Star Wars and 2000’s comedy fan. If that sounds fun, that’s what a lot of the movie is. It leans hard into the “bro” centric comedy of movies like Neighbors. At certain points the film actually feels just like an animated scene from that film. You have the entire cast of American Revolution heavyweights: Edison, Adams, Revere, Geronimo, and more.

It’s unfortunate that most of the characters that you would want to see lampooned are killed off in the first 4 minutes of the film. How much fun would it have been to see Ben Franklin in this movie? It was a storyline choice that definitely affected the final product. The characters that they included are all funny in their own right, but their gags only go so far. Making Thomas Edison an Asian-American female might have been the funniest choice of them all. Olivia Munn does the best job out of the cast to stand out among a sea of yelling bro characters.

Outside of that, the characters all really sort of blend together. Channing Tatum and Jason Mantzoukas sound exactly the same whenever they raise their voice. Besides that, when the jokes don’t land, you’re left with an over-the-top movie that has no real punch.

When It’s Funny, It Works, But That’s Not Too Often

AMERICA: THE MOTION PICTURE – (L-R) Channing Tatum as “George Washington”, Andy Samberg as “Benedict Arnold” and Will Forte as “Abraham Lincoln”. Cr: America, The Motion Picture, LLC. © 2021

The film at it’s best is when you take the classic American tale and turn it on it’s head. Nearing the end of the film, when there’s just action and characters running around doing their thing, it works. The social commentary parts, especially the end after the battle for the birth of America is over, are the funniest parts of the movie. They just don’t happen very often throughout, and some of the best jokes are smaller ones like the heroes fighting the British in a bar called Vietnam. They get their asses kicked, but then say they won the war at Vietnam.

It’s moments that are small like this in the film that show off a premise and promising tone for America: The Motion Picture. The scenes with Killer Mike‘s character explaining his profession of being a Blacksmith are also hilarious. So you do end up with some good laughs sprinkled throughout that make the movie watchable.

The final piece of the film that raises it up from a failing grade is the animation. The animation is smooth and looks beautiful. It’s like an episode of Archer on steroids. Sweeping shots of battlefields, great action fights, and the like make it so that even if you’re not laughing, you’re at least seeing a visual feast.

America: The Motion Picture Might Be Worth A Watch, But Not For Many

If you’re expecting Fourth of July fireworks and a great American film, you might have to keep looking past America: the Motion Picture. It doesn’t ever go past the “nice chuckle” phase of comedy. The film lifts a bunch from Star Wars. It doesn’t ever rise above more than something you’d want in the background. For some, the film will be hilarious, but of all the jokes in the film, I can’t remember many.

A fantastic cast, great animation, and an interesting premise don’t save the film from being a surface level of comedy. America: the Motion Picture doesn’t capitalize on it’s great idea for an animated comedy film.

It releases on Netflix, June 30th.

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