The Other Side of Animation 225: America The Motion Picture Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

We seem to live in a world where many people seem to think film criticism is black and white. A film is either good or bad, and, well, that’s limiting to the world of art and film. Criticism should be more of a gradient. No one is ever like “yeah, I like and hate everything”. You all have films you love, like, think are good, okay, mediocre, bad, the worst, and you get the idea. Sometimes ya love a film because it’s uneven or maybe you hate it for the same reason. This is how I feel about Netflix’s newest adult animated film with Matt Thompson’s America: The Motion Picture. 


Written by Dave Callaham, directed by Matt Thompson, produced by Channing Tatum, Adam Reed, Matt Thompson, Will Allegra, Peter Kiernan, Reid Carolin, Eric Sims, and Christopher Miller, and Phil Lord, this 2D animated feature was produced by Floyd County Productions, Free Association, and Netflix Animation. This is their newest attempt to reign over the animation scene with a film that you wouldn’t see in the theaters or on TV. Well, what do I think of this absurd take on American history that sounds like it was a film made by Jake Peralta from Brooklyn 99 for a history report? 

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Our story revolves around George Washington, voiced by Channing Tatum. He lives in an alternate history where he was alive at the same time as Abe Lincoln and many other important and pseudo-important historical icons. As he is enjoying a show with his best pal Abe, it is interrupted by Benedict Arnold, voiced by Andy Samberg. Arnold pulls a, well, Benedict Arnold and has not only interrupted the signing of the Declaration of Independence but also killed Abe Lincoln in his plan to take over the United States for King James, voiced by Simon Pegg. George decides to rise against the evil tyrants and finds a team of individuals to take down the British. These include Sam Adams, voiced by Jason Mantzoukas, Thomas Edison, voiced by Olivia Munn, Paul Revere, voiced by Bobby Moynihan, Geronimo, voiced by Raoul Trujillo, and Blacksmith, voiced by Killer Mike. Can our rebellious group of rabble-rousers save the soon-to-be-titled United States of America? 

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Listen, when the trailer for this film came out, it’s understandable that the reception to it and its wildly free take on American history would be polarizing. When you make commentary about politics, you have to, well, take small careful steps. However, after finally watching this film, it’s not meant to be taken seriously as a political comedy. Don’t come into this thinking you are going to get a Death of Stalin. Like I said above, I joked, but this does come off like a history report made by Jake Peralta, which is fitting since Andy Samberg is in this film. It has some commentary and I’ll have some thoughts about that, but it’s meant to be this cracked-out take on history that reads more like a pulp action story. It’s a fast-paced action comedy that takes full advantage of its nonsensical period of history, as it keeps you moving to each quirky setup, punchline, and action beat. It has some themes about working together to take down hate and to support stuff like science, but you will be here to enjoy the high-octane action and absurd characterizations of historical figures. The action is creative, violent, and has some of the better laughs in the overall film. It also helps that the cast is delightful and how they all bounce off of one another. It’s not perfect character dynamics, but some of the angles they take with the leads are delightful. 

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Animation-wise, it’s a bigger budgeted production of Archer, I think it looks better than Archer due to how much more movement and polish the character models are given. It helps that the film has a more comic book cartoony look that makes it stand out from Archer. They move fluidly, and they do have dynamic movements and much more expressive facial animation than the studio’s usual work. Hopefully, the studio that animated this film Floyd County Productions unionizes because animators should have better working conditions, but the team that worked on the film’s visual look did a fantastic job. I also enjoyed the voice cast. Channing Tatum, Will Forte, Jason Mantouzkas, Olivia Munn, Bobby Moynihan, Judy Greer, Raoul Trujillo, Killer Mike, Simon Pegg, and Andy Samberg put in some fantastic performances. It comes off like everyone had a ton of fun acting in this film since it’s not a traditional project for these individuals. The music by Mark Mothersbaugh is fun, but I wouldn’t call it his best work. It helps fit the tone and the mood, but outside of the mix of rock and hip hop thrown into the story, I don’t remember much. 

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I wish the music was the only thing I had criticism about this film. Like most comedies, I found some of the jokes to be hit and miss. It’s more of a dumb popcorn flick than a groundbreaking political comedy. The political jokes that are there are familiar and nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s like this movie wanted to be a pulpy schlocky action flick, but then also had to deal with the question of people overthinking this film with how it was going to handle its political themes. To me, it’s very basic in its views. It’s pro-science, anti-racism, and the ending is fairly funny and cynical in a realistic way of how America turned out in the end. To be clear, it doesn’t love or support the far right. Even the POC characters are constantly calling out George or Sam Adams on their shenanigans and insults. However, I don’t think it balances out its cynical political comedy and the violent pulp action elements very well. I wouldn’t call it the sharpest comedy or action film that Lord and Miller have helped produce. A good handful of the main characters are also not that interesting. Some of them are more fleshed out than others. It’s also a bummer that Blacksmith sits out for a major chunk of the second act alongside Geronimo, but I am happy that the two have some of the best lines and the best moments in the final battle. America: The Motion Picture is also very macho-driven. Outside of Olivia Munn’s Edison, the female characters do not get as much support and love as the male characters. 





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While it is extremely uneven in its execution, I enjoyed it. I can also understand if other critics and animation/film fans do not tolerate this one. It’s, at the very least, an interesting film to come out and doesn’t feel as boring and boilerplate as Spirit Untamed. If you are in the mood for something a bit different than the usual family-focused animated films out right now, then give it a watch. I’m glad something like this exists even if it’s not perfect, because more distinct animated films deserve to be made and either succeed or fail. If you want more diversity in what stories are told, then you need to support the ones trying to stand out. For now, though, let’s travel to Germany as the next film I will be reviewing is Snotty Boy.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 107: The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

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When you are making a movie these days, you have to go all in with the commitment of making it. You have to put 100% into directing, writing, acting, editing, composing, and you get the idea. If you are not using all cylinders while in production, the end product is going to show. This is especially true with sequels, due to their infamous nature of not always being better than the first film. You would think that making a sequel would be easier, but that is sadly not always the case. There is a reason why so many film series should have only stayed as one movie. Hence the focus on today’s review, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature.  A sequel to the surprising financial hit from 2014, Nutty by Nature came out to the fanfare of no one. The original film got lucky, since it came out in January of 2014, made a lot of money during a month where mostly bad movies are dumped into theaters. Three years later, we have a sequel that had very little hype or excitement, and looked like a waste of time. To no surprise, this sequel to a film no one was asking for underperformed at the box office, only making a tiny bit over $40 mil on a $40 mil budget, and getting mostly negative reviews. I was not particularly looking forward to this one for obvious reasons, but after watching it, it’s the perfect example of my overall opening paragraph. What do I mean? Well, let’s see why no one went nutty over Nutty by Nature.

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The sequel picks up six months after the first film, as we follow Surly Squirrel, voiced by Will Arnett, living the big life inside the closed-down nut shop with his animal friends. They have all the nuts in the world to eat, and live like fat little piglets. Unfortunately for him and his friends, the store blows up, and they are forced to scavenge for food back in the park. Even more unfortunately for them, the mayor of the town, voiced by SNL alumni Bobby Moynihan, decides that he wants to tear down the park and make it an amusement park. It’s up to Surly and his friends to take back the park from the evil mayor and his animal control henchman played by Peter Stormare. Can Surly get the help of some city mice led by Jackie Chan to save the park? Have you seen any “save the environment” films from the 90s?

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Okay, before we talk about the bad, let’s talk about the good. First off, the animation is surprisingly solid. Textures don’t look so straight-to-video, movements are way more cartoony and fluid, and everything feels more polished than the first film. The original was decent, but I could personally argue that it wasn’t up to theatrical quality standards, but that’s just me. Thankfully, everything is way more lush and vibrant than the last film. You can tell the entire team wanted to make a better-looking movie, and it did so on a $40 mil budget. The physical comedy is way better as well. The previous film had decent physical comedy, but because of the mediocre animation, the jokes didn’t land. My guess is that the directors and writers watched what Warner Animation Group is doing with physical comedy, like in Storks, to learn proper Looney Toons-style comedy. The next improvement is that the film is way less mean-spirited, with characters who are more tolerable. Some are still as annoying as they were in the first film, but I wasn’t just grinding my teeth together waiting for characters that weren’t utterly terrible to appear onscreen. I think my two favorite characters were the villains, the mayor and the animal control guy. I think Peter Stormare and Bobby Moynihan were having a blast being cartoon levels of evil. They aren’t original villains, or villains that are interesting, but for this type of movie, they were way more entertaining than they could have been, and probably had some of the best lines in the movie. The action in this film is also well executed, especially when you have Jackie Chan coming into play, who probably has some of the best scenes in the later part of film. They even have this cute romance between the pug and the mayor’s French bulldog. All throughout the film, you can tell the people making it tried harder. They put more effort into the writing, the animation, the comedy, and put out a better product.

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With all that said, this film is by no means one of 2017’s best animated films. As much as I say everything has improved, a lot of the humor and writing is not great. It’s very weak writing, and if you have seen the film, you know they milk one joke multiple times. It’s not all that clever humor either. I think the only times I got laughs out of the film was because of the execution of the line read from the actors. Sometimes, a good comedic actor can make a bad joke work. Another huge problem is that the film is painfully generic. If you have seen any, and I do mean any environmental films, then you know how it’s all going to go down. I know not every film needs to be a “masterpiece” or on the level of Pixar, but if you are going to do something we have seen before, you had better execute it well, or get really creative. Sadly, the story is painfully simple with humans being evil, and the animals having to save the day. Heck, they heavily advertise Jackie Chan’s character for being in the movie, but he’s in it for pretty much 20 minutes total. Due to the lackluster writing, I didn’t find myself really caring about the emotional moments with all of the characters. Some interactions were cute, but when they tried to make you feel for the characters, it felt out of place.

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It’s an infuriating sit. You can tell the team behind the sequel tried harder, got the animation to work, improved the characters, and the story. However, they didn’t go full tilt on improving everything else. It’s not super funny, I didn’t care about the other characters, and in the end, I was perfectly fine with the film underperforming. The original back in 2014 got lucky because it was a family-animated film in January, and the studio thought they could get another financial hit with a sequel. For some reason or another, the movie-going audience said “we didn’t want this”, and made sure no one saw it. It’s an overall harmless film, but if you were going to get an animated film of this year to rent or purchase, I would pick up In This Corner of the World. It’s cheaper than buying The Nut Job 2, and it’s 100% better. If you do decide to watch it, eh, I hope you get some enjoyment out of seeing it. Next time, we are going to look at what is considered one of DC’s biggest disappointments in animation with Batman & Harley Quinn. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!