the years 2004 Team America: World Police was a scathing parody of American action films, but also a legitimately excellent version of the genre’s tropes at work. While ridiculing the concept of American exceptionalism, writers Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady have successfully championed America’s role as the biggest cock in a world filled with assholes.
Netflix’s animated feature film America: the movie, which comes out on June 30, looks like an attempt to walk the same line between mockery and actual chauvinism. The aggressively anachronistic and ahistoric film follows George Washington (Channing Tatum) as he attempts to avenge the death of his childhood best friend Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte) by fighting the British forces led by Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg), who is inexplicably a werewolf. This could be a recipe for awkward fun to watch while being very drunk and celebrating July 4th, but any goodwill provided by the concept or the cast is completely wasted on a film that is chock full of endless references without having anything to do with it. that is to say.
Washington enlists the help of beer brewing brother Sam Adams (a waste of Jason Mantzoukas’ bizarre humor) and a socially awkward version of Paul Revere who dresses like a knight (Bobby Moynihan). The screenplay, by writer Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984 and Mortal combat) repeatedly notes that the Founding Fathers were white men who really cared only about the interests of other white men. Then it continues, without any points or punchlines. That’s especially true when guys recruit more diverse allies like expert tracker Geronimo (Raoul Trujillo) or Iron Man-style super-scientist Thomas Edison, who is recast as a Chinese-American woman voiced by Olivia Munn.
Characters of color constantly point out that they are susceptible to abuse from Washington and Adams, who regularly make racist and sexist remarks. But they dismiss those doubts, because these guys are meant to be lovable idiots, and their nemesis King James (Simon Pegg) is worse – he’s basically Dune‘s Baron Harkonnen with a plan to turn the whole world into tea-loving Britons with bad teeth. Callahan tries to poke fun at the story’s dumps with an overt shade, but later asks Jefferson to explain that she wants to win the war to show everyone what science is capable of. No one brings up the fact that the British Empire seems to be powered entirely by super-science, while the guys she works with call her a witch.
Archer director Matt Thompson at the helm America: the movie, and the movie clearly shows how much more important Archer Creator and writer Adam Reed is at the hit of the FX show. At first glance, Archer – an arrogant spy and a travesty of James Bond – seems similar to Tatum’s portrayal of Washington as a tough, brooding action hero, but while Archerthe characters regularly make the dumbest decisions possible, the writing is extremely intelligent. The world follows its own bizarre logic, and the entire cast is so obnoxious and egotistical that viewers don’t have to feel bad for anyone. Callahan seems to really want the Founding Fathers to be flawed but relatable heroes, but they just come across as fools that no one should work with.
America: the movie delivers only the superficial, superficial version of the parody, as the characters point out the ridiculously growing stakes of the conflict, or their story follows a classic three-act structure. It’s also full of obvious references to the movies America: the movie is conspicuously mocking. But nothing really witty or funny is happening. Without even a pretext of internal logic to justify these references, the film looks like a family guy version of Loan Player One.
An opening scene where Washington watches Lincoln die in ridiculous spurts of blood resembles the scene of prolonged vomiting from Team America, or any number of family guy gags that last so long they get boring and then funny again. But Callahan and Thompson don’t seem to understand that these tracks work because of the fast pace of what happens before and after. America: the movie is filled with gags that never land and then go beyond their welcome, like an extended hack streak where Washington has to find out where in Gettysburg the Brits are hiding – that is, he has to find the address of Gettysburg.
When humor isn’t relentlessly bland, it’s offensive. Arnold’s statement that he’s changed sides sets off an extended streak in which he has to awkwardly convince Lincoln and Washington that he’s not turning out to be gay. Busty blonde Martha Washington (Judy Greer) is no parody of action movie love interests whose only role is to have sex with the hero and then inevitably motivate him into being kidnapped by a villain rude – everything about these tropes is actually played straight. Time and time again, Callahan refers to the things that are wrong with Hollywood blockbusters and American society and then moves on, as if the slightest self-awareness brings humor or a point.
There’s not even much visually compelling about the film, which uses a blocky style similar to The Venture Bros. – the only similarity America: the movie brings to this much better work of an action parody. AmericaThe artwork of is worse, however, thanks to an eerie effect that makes the lines in the chiseled jaws and protruding muscles of all the characters glow in a distracting fashion. Even new animations like a bloodthirsty soccer ball named Manchester look like aimless gadgets.
The war on “critical race theory” in schools makes Americans examine the stories we tell about our country. Independence Day is a celebration of creating a better political system, and it can also be an opportunity to take stock of how we can continue to improve as a society. Even for audiences who don’t feel introspective, July 4th can be a great time to enjoy the best that America has to offer, including some entertaining action flicks. America: the movie tries to provide a little of both and does not deliver either. Like a failed fireworks display, it’s supposed to provide a quick rise of spectacle, and that’s just a bummer.
America: the movie is now streaming on Netflix.