George Washington might be one of the most recognizable figures in American history—but have you ever seen him wield dual chainsaws?
America: The Motion Picture is an animated retelling of the Revolutionary War using a cast of characters plucked from all eras of history—though they’re maybe not quite like you remember them. Paul Revere was raised by horses, Samuel Adams is a hard-partying fraternity brother, and Thomas Edison is, well, a woman.
No, these aren’t the founding fathers you might be used to, but they’re the ones party-loving George Washington is going to need to free his country from the tyrannical rule of the British King James. After his best friend Abraham Lincoln is murdered by infamous traitor Benedict Arnold (who happens to also be a werewolf, for reasons unexplained), George vows to enact revenge. He also sets out to defeat King James and declare independence, discovering along the way that the British ruler’s plans for the colonies are more sinister than anyone realized.
Joining George on his quest for freedom and vengeance are gun-toting frat bro Samuel Adams and brilliant scientist Thomas Edison, as well as Paul Revere (who’s just as fast on a horse as he is socially awkward) and Geronimo, an expert tracker with very little patience for his new teammates. Together, the ragtag team embarks on a journey to free the 13 colonies, leaving a trail of profanity, violence, and explicit sexual content in their wake.
Nope, not your history teacher’s American Revolution at all.
While positive moments are few and far between, there are themes of teamwork and friendship present, as George and his recruits learn to trust and even make sacrifices for each other. George also wants to be a good husband to his wife, Martha, as well as an upstanding father to his unborn son, since his own father was never present during his childhood.
Obviously, the majority of the “historical content” of the film is completely fictional, but there are a few references that could be considered educational. Not that they’re easy to spot amidst the sea of fantasy and intentional anachronisms.
Thomas’ science is so impressive it almost borders on magic; she has a semi-religious devotion to it, crediting it for all her success. She is very nearly burned at the stake by the British for practicing science, but she saves herself using her inventions. Sam Adams consistently calls her a “witch,” which she protests each time.
A running joke involves George following a saying or observation with “John 3:16,” as if quoting the biblical verse. (“I don’t think so, champ,” Martha gently corrects him.) He also folds his hands and prays “In God I trust” before the team makes a dangerous leap over the Delaware River. He claims that their cause is “God’s will,” not Mother Earth’s or Isaac Newton’s, as Geronimo and Thomas suggest. The British call King James their “lord and savior,” and Sam mockingly offers his “thoughts and prayers” when Geronimo is injured.
In a scene depicting America’s decline into social turmoil immediately after its foundation, we see an elderly woman brandishing a Bible and using it to beat a same-sex couple, calling them “sinners.”
A brief sexual scene between George and Martha features comedically exaggerated motions and sounds; Martha is shown almost completely nude, though she covers her chest with her arm. Nudity does later appear, however. A woman is shown topless at Paul Revere’s horse race and again during the final battle with the British.
Martha and other female characters wear very revealing outfits; A few scenes take place at a strip club, where scantily clad dancers are shown performing. A poster of a woman in a bikini graces the wall of a British jail cell. George, Geronimo, and Sam go shirtless periodically.
Sexual jokes are constant; references are made to masturbation, semen, same-sex relationships, and more. George reminisces about when he and Abe both lost their virginities the night of their senior prom. A blacksmith’s shop that the team visits is called “I’d Hit That.” Many more references to sex appear, mostly played for comedic effect.
When your protagonist is a Founding Father armed with double chainsaws, you’re going to see some bloodshed. George slices through redcoats like paper, with body parts and blood flying all across the screen. The British ambush the signing of the Declaration of Independence and massacre the colonists, blowing off body parts with bullets; one man is decapitated, and his head flies through a window onto the lawn. Benedict Arnold rips out Abe Lincoln’s throat and blood spews out like a fountain. The latter’s head falls off as he dies in George’s arms.
Various buildings explode; Sam and his fraternity brothers even blow up piles of trash for fun.
George accidentally sinks a ship in the Boston Harbor and we see it go down in flames. Passengers scream as the ship slowly sinks, and some fall off the deck to their deaths.
[Spoiler Warning] Arnold, after transforming into a wolf, bites Geronimo on the arm; Geronimo cuts it off with an axe to keep from turning into a werewolf. Blood splatters and spews out of the resulting stump.
Foul language is a constant throughout the film; the f-word is used more than 70 times, while the s-word is used over 30. “D–n”, “a–” and “b–ch” also appear around 10 times each; “d–k” is used 15 times, and God and Jesus’ names are collectively taken in vain 25 times.
The middle finger is also used twice, once as a prop that emerges from a music box playing “Hail Britannia.” A few crude references are made, such as a joke about diarrhea. At Sam’s fraternity party, someone writes a joke about male genitalia on his passed-out friend.
Our introduction to Sam Adams is at one of his fraternity parties, where people chug beer. Sam continues to drink it throughout the film, even bragging about brewing some himself. We see several barrels of it at his fraternity house.
References are made to Abe Lincoln doing cocaine. George is shocked to learn that his best friend used drugs, but then celebrates it (“Abe, you old coke hound!”).
George tells Martha that his father used to be an alcoholic.
[Spoiler Warning] Thomas foils Arnold’s plan—to turn all of the colonists British by soaking them with tea—by turning the tea into beer. It rains down on the British soldiers, turning them into classic American stereotypes (fraternity brothers, football players, etc.).
Jokes are made throughout the film about Sam being a racist; the first thing he says to Thomas, a Chinese woman, is “Why is your skin like that?” By the end of the story, he claims he’s been reformed, but he makes racist remarks about both Thomas and Geronimo until then. At one point, he suggests “getting hammered” and taking down “anyone who doesn’t look like us.”
Virtually every British stereotype you can imagine is employed, teetering on (and occasionally crossing) the line between jokes made in good fun and mean-spiritedness. The soldiers have yellow and crooked teeth, use ridiculously parodied accents, and are all cruel and heartless towards the colonists. At one point, characters are “turned British,” a fate which the Americans apparently consider to be worse than death.
For all its gratuity and shocking content, America: The Motion Picture is impressive in that it still manages to be completely and utterly forgettable.
Stories that revise history for the sake of entertainment—Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and smash-hit Broadway production Hamilton come to mind—usually do so because they have something to say. They want to draw your attention to the way events actually played out by showing you an alternative (as we see in Inglourious) or make history more entertaining for a younger generation (as in Hamilton). All America: The Motion Picture wants to do is hold your attention for 90 minutes by appealing to the lowest possible denominator of comedy.
There would be potential here for a celebration of freedom, or for a satirical critique of American nationalism. The film hints at both, but commits to neither, preferring to use excessive violence and sex to keep the viewer entertained and prevent them from—gasp—thinking critically about what they’re watching.
No, there’s nothing here that comes close to justifying the ridiculous content issues, or really the film’s own existence in the first place. While the founding fathers declare their independence from England’s tyranny, any sensible viewer will declare theirs from Netflix’s latest offering and spend their 90 minutes doing literally anything else.
Lauren Cook is serving as a 2021 summer intern for the Parenting and Youth department at Focus on the Family. She is studying film and screenwriting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. You can get her talking for hours about anything from Star Wars to her family to how Inception was the best movie of the 2010s. But more than anything, she’s passionate about showing how every form of art in some way reflects the Gospel. Coffee is a close second.