The American Revolution gets a frat-style sendup in this irreverent animated comedy.
By Amy Nicholson
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Two nights before signing the Declaration of Independence, George Washington threw a celebratory rager where America’s founding father was said to have rung up a bar tab equivalent to $17,253. Our nation began with a hangover, a fact too factual to be included in “America: The Motion Picture” (streaming on Netflix), a raunchy, aggressively inane cartoon that flips the bird — both onscreen and thematically — to a strain of patriotism that insists that the slave owners who started this country were sober-minded heroes whose vision of democracy remains flawless, bro. “That’s why we make the rules, baby!” bellows Samuel Adams (voiced by Jason Mantzoukas) after a keg stand. Here, to be a privileged white man in America is intoxicating, a truth no less fictional than watching Paul Revere win a “Fast and Furious”-inspired street race that goes “one quarter-mule at a time.”
This sacrilegious prank, directed by Matt Thompson and written by Dave Callaham, opens with Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte) getting his throat ripped out by the turncoat (and werewolf) Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg). Let’s dodge a description of Lincoln’s deathbed flatulence and skip ahead to the plot where Lincoln’s prom date George Washington (Channing Tatum, perfectly himbo-esque) vows revenge on the “fun police,” a.k.a. King James (Simon Pegg), who has constructed a dirigible that will tea-bag the fratty Yanks into submission. What follows is a rowdy sendup of the country’s id. Eagles scream. “Free Bird” wails. Paul Bunyan boxes Big Ben. And in a nod to America’s ill-informed history classes, Washington also stutters his goal to do “something about taxation?”
The one-joke premise results in a headache by the time we witness Washington impregnate Martha (Judy Greer) during a montage that includes Old Faithful and a sledgehammer crushing a cherry pie. Squint hard, and the first lady’s buoyant pep and pectorals could charitably be a satire on ideal womanhood. Less subtle are the film’s cheeky rip-offs of “Star Wars” and “The Avengers,” and the inclusion of a reimagined Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn), now a female Chinese immigrant who exists to roll her eyes at the dingbats. Ultimately, Edison decides the country is worth defending anyway. Is it? The fictional ending isn’t sure — and the real ending is yet to be written.
America: The Motion Picture
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. Watch on Netflix.
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