If no distributor can ever handpick its audience, once Netflix sent its ribald and irreverent reframing of the U.S.’ foundational myth to the French animation festival, the streamer certainly came awfully close.
Produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and directed by “Archer” producer Matt Thompson, the decidedly hard-R “America: The Motion Picture” played to a room primed to react when it screened in France as part of Annecy’s Midnight Specials sidebar this past Friday.
Though the film played to a room at 65% capacity and at 8:30 pm rather than at midnight, you can blame French COVID-19 restrictions for that. Whatever the case, the audience was surprisingly mixed in both gender and generation, and seemed to generally be in tune with the film that begins with Abraham Lincoln being mauled by a werewolf Benedict Arnold, in case you wondered about historical verisimilitude.
“I enjoyed it,” Sarah, 34, told Variety as the screening let out. “It was a very amusing revision of American history, with plenty of iconic references.” Another attendee felt sometimes it went beyond her reach. “I think it depends on knowing a lot of American history, and there are some things that I didn’t get,” said Shengquan, 26 and from China. “Though my favorite part was the beginning, when all the characters show up.”
As the 98-minute narrative drew towards its action finale, it lifted freely and often from action blockbusters new and old.
Of course, citing such Hollywood touchstones seemed to be very much the point. Not everyone has heard of Paul Revere’s ride or learned that Lincoln’s second inaugural contained but 701 words, who hasn’t seen “Robocop,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Avengers: Infinity War?” And in the end, aren’t those films just as much a part of America’s global mythology?
“I’d say the fact that we’re not from America made us miss a few aspects about American history,” said Jordan, 28. “But at the same time because it’s mixed with so much pop culture everyone can find something in there.”
The streamer may be glad to know that Jordan had become an eager convert.
“I dragged him to the movie because I really wanted to see it,” Jordan’s friend Mohamed explained. “Once the movie ended, we said to each other, it felt like a bunch of fraternity bros got drunk and tried to figure out the history of America.”
“Maybe they had a test the next day,” Mohamed, 27, continued. “One would say, how do you think it happened? Then one guy says something and the other guy jumps in…”
That got Jordan going again. “It’s all about references! We caught some of them, but there are many that we didn’t really get. So many that I think it deserved a series.”
“I prefer the movie,” Mohamed replied. “A series would drag on too long, especially with Netflix.”