Review: America: The Motion Picture

Like an animated take on drunk history, this hiccup from Lord and Miller is a twist on the American revolution, which rambles on with the incoherent slurs and burps of a history teacher whose had one too many. 2 stars.

(Image: America: The Motion Picture, still courtesy of IMDB)

Comedy Central’s TV show, Drunk History (2013-2019) sees various celebrities rewrite history after a few drinks. Often, America: The Motion Picture feels like an animated version of just that. I mean this in the worst way possible. It felt like the creative team behind this film was too intoxicated to craft anything other than a lazy, immature attempt at satirical subversion.

In a film where an in-depth synopsis would be a waste of valuable reader time, America: The Motion Picture (2021) is an interpretation of historical events surrounding the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution. From the producers behind Spider Man: Into the Spider Verse (2018) we are welcomed into a multiverse of madness, entering an alternate timeline. Sadly, this is a world that, after a brief visit, you will soon want to leave.

A packed production team of 11 creators proved once again that too many cooks can spoil the broth – or, in this case, too many fathers can flounder the froth. In an opening that provides the odd chuckle, the film soon drifts into a meandering, nonsensical narrative – an on-screen equivalent of the drunk old man in the corner of the pub, waffling at anyone willing to listen. Initially entertaining and quickly irritating, by the 30-minute mark I found myself enduring things rather than enjoying them.

In his recent special, Inside (2021), Bo Burnham claimed that: “The simple narrative taught in every history class is demonstrably false and pedagogically classist.” This is true. And in America: The Motion Picture, a fresh interpretation of the past provides a unique take on history – which is somehow less funny and more infuriating.

‘A sinking ship’, still courtesy of IMDB

With 5 minutes of laughter and 90 minutes of missed opportunity, director Matt Thompson never manages to take advantage of the fun premise and potential. Behind the squiffy screenplay were those involved in the excellent animated show Archer (2009-). While Archer opts for gratuity and crudeness with a comedic, intelligent splice, Thompson’s film often felt more like the hyper child in a primary school history lesson who has just learned his first swear word.

Maybe that’s harsh. One thing that this picture has in common with Archer and our Spidey friend is the excellent animation. With the bonkers basis of the plot, the animation team took full advantage and there are many images and sequences that have now been burned into my brain following a late-night viewing – for better and for worse.

It’s a fun attempt, and the voice cast seem to be having a great time – but certainly more fun than the audience. Notably, Channing Tatum and Jason Mantzoukas who are, as per usual, excellent company. Similarly, Olivia Munn as Thomas Edison provides humorous subversion, but, again, this is little more than a wry smile. And, as we all know, a wry smile does not a comedy make.

Ironically, this silly screenplay shares its writer with The Expendables (2010), nicely complimenting the disposable nature of the Netflix release. Although a respectable attempt to break the rule books (or history books) and deviate from past timelines, this is perhaps the right time to stick to the classroom.

Prior to this release, producers Lord and Miller have had an excellent run of films, which have sparked a revolution in American animation. The sooner they declare their independence from this one, the better.

America: The Motion Picture is out on Netflix now.