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America: The Motion Picture
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Matt Thompson
scr Dave Callaham
prd Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Will Allegra, Channing Tatum, Peter Kiernan, Reid Carolin
with Channing Tatum, Andy Samberg, Simon Pegg, Jason Mantzoukas, Olivia Munn, Bobby Moynihan, Judy Greer, Will Forte, Raoul Max Trujillo, Killer Mike, Carlos Alazraqui, Megan Leahy
release US/UK 30.Jun.21
21/US Netflix 1h38
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A riotously irreverent pastiche that mashes up American history with bonkers action movie chaos, this animated feature ironically requires rather clear knowledge of key historical figures and events in order to get the densely packed jokes. There's plenty of pop culture satire delivered with profane glee to keep less discerning audiences laughing, but it's the barrage of witty wordplay and silly punchlines that make the movie sporadically entertaining.
As the Continental Congress is blown to smithereens, George Washington (Tatum) and Abraham Lincoln (Forte) are having a night out at the theatre when Benedict Arnold (Samberg), who's secretly a werewolf, murders Abe. With encouragement from Martha (Greer), George vows revenge, assembling a team of heroes with dude-bro Samuel Adams (Mantzoukas), brilliant female inventor Thomas Edison (Munn), horse-riding knight Paul Revere (Moynihan) and righteously angry native American Geronimo (Trujillo). Their first major task is to find a Gettysburg address, where they will be able to confront Arnold and his boss King James (Pegg).
The script is a barrage of dopey jokes, sharp references and knowing nods to just about everything imaginable, and each scene overflows with wildly anachronistic nuttiness. The humour is a sloppy puddle of random historical facts blended with nods to a blinding array of movies and zeitgeisty icons. This throw-in-everything approach guarantees that plenty of jokes hit the target, especially for viewers who catch the more sophisticated references. Although the craziness is piled on so heavily that it's rather exhausting.
The characters are designed as beefy musclemen and curvy babes, and the voice cast dive into the sweary dialog with relish. The animation has a witty hand-drawn style, while the frequent action set-pieces are staged as outrageously over-the-top mayhem, with a chainsaw-wielding George and a high-tech megalomaniacal supervillain in King James. Meanwhile, elements from two and a half centuries of US history are jumbled together, including some inspired throwaway riffs, such as the Routemaster AT-ATs.
Along with the general satire about how little most people know about history, there are some pointed moments here and there, such as when George and crew pitch Geronimo with their cause, and he has a stronger beef against Britain than they do. On the other hand, the plot is such a haphazard concoction that it can neither grab the attention nor build a sense of momentum as it barrels toward an epic Avengers-style battle. But there's genuine wit in the smaller gags tossed in around the edges.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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