A double chainsaw-wielding George Washington, a Werewolf, a Robocop-centaur and a humourless satire.
What’s it about:
The film is set in the days leading up to American War for Independence in the 18th century, in a very alternative version of historical events where the ‘Founding Fathers of America go up against Benedict Arnold, who is also a werewolf. In this wildly exaggerated world with futuristic tech and supernatural themes, George Washington recruits a ragtag group of revolutionaries to overthrow the British Empire under King James. The plot is a satire on xenophobia, racism, science denial, gun laws and gender issues.
The voice acting is excellent, it would be surprising if it wasn’t because the cast list has a fabulous ensemble of Channing Tatum, Simon Pegg, Olivia Munn, Bobby Moynihan, Judy Greer and Jason Mantzoukas. The themes discussed are extremely relevant to the contemporary socio-political fabric of the United States of America. The film also does not shy away from critiquing the country’s own policies on gun laws, the Vietnam War and their foreign policy. In a particular scene the story’s primary protagonists enter a bar to defeat the villainous Benedict Arnold. Instead, they end up blowing up the whole establishment, a very obvious nod to America’s actual involvement in Vietnam and the disaster that ensued.They have also made it a point to call out the country’s populace who deny or refuse to accept science and research. There was also a nod to gender stereotypes by their choice of opting to change Thomas Edison’s character to a woman of colour.
The most recurring theme is how some Americans refuse to acknowledge the fact that the country was formed by immigrants - the exposition for this was provided by the Native American character and the African American character. There are plenty of Easter eggs and historical references sprinkled throughout the narrative, with nods to major blockbusters like Robocop, Batman v Superman, Avengers: Infinity War, The Transporter, Star Wars series, and John Wick.
Despite its interesting setting, characters, and themes, it fails to truly embrace the concept of a satire as the themes and the social messages it is trying to convey are a little too on the nose. Subtlety could have elevated the script to a much higher standard. This has inadvertently made the humour cringeworthy at times and fails to be funny at all in certain scenes, which is quite disappointing considering that it is a satire. There are hints that the writers may have taken inspiration from Rick and Morty, but unfortunately were unable to replicate the formula that made Rick and Morty an excellent satire with just the right amount of humour.
The animation did have its moments, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is also disappointing that there is nothing noteworthy regarding the sound design, considering how recently the animated content has significantly improved the sound design. It does not however mean that the film's sound design is not up to the required standards. The characters could have been fleshed out a little better for the benefit of the international audience to provide some context.
America: The Motion Picture does have just enough intrigue to keep the viewer hooked till the end. The writing was inadequate for a movie that discusses several socio-political themes, with some very obvious references to certain events. It could also be that it was a conscious decision by the writers to appeal to a wider demographic even though they failed to provide a bit of context for its primary characters.