Is there anything more American than films that place the stars and stripes in the middle of an intergalactic battle with aliens from outer space? What more could the Founding Fathers want? But maybe this isn’t a tribute to the human spirit of courage, bravery and survival we often associate with “truth, freedom and the American way.”
Perhaps such films are dark commentaries on the American psyche, or should I say, the ’merican psyche (or perhaps “murican”). But maybe we don’t need to feel so gloomy about something quite so ridiculous. If county fairs and Crocs have taught us anything, it’s how unashamed some of us are. And in that spirit, I pay tribute to the best and the worst, shameless films that make us all proud to be Americans.
“Independence Day: Resurgence”
You’ll spend a couple hours slowly watching the original cast get picked off in favor of new, younger stars. Sadly, the only connection to the “Independence Day” motif seems to be the 20-year anniversary. No real mention of America even exists. Even sadder, no presidential monologue reminds us about the importance of the Fourth of July amid impossible odds. So many lost opportunities.
This one is just plain terrible. Leave it to director Michael Bay to remind us that in the midst of one of America’s greatest tragedies, we all have time to ogle over sexy Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. At least the action sequences are spectacular.
“If I can change and you can change, everybody can change,” screams Rocky (a much younger Sylvester Stallone) after his victory over Russian boxer Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and a great step forward for capitalism in the face of Cold War anxiety. What a way to go for Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).
Roland Emmerich, the German director of “Independence Day” and “The Patriot,” sure loves tapping into that American spirit. At its most ridiculous, this one seems to even erase racism in one scene. The explosions are bigger, but that brainless ideology sure can lead to an amazing drinking game. Every time something historically inaccurate happens, one shot of Bud Light. You might die, but it’ll be a good, ’merican death.
There has to be a better way to honor vets than having them run a Battleship to take on an alien foe. As for “Armageddon,” it is almost comical in how it elevates an oil driller to planet-saving heights. Michael Bay strikes again.
“Mighty Ducks 2”
Admit it, when the villainous coach of Team Iceland says, “Team USA is going down,” you kinda wanted to asphyxiate him with an American flag (a flag that got dirty and had to be disposed of, so it’s not tarnishing a good flag). What’s more American than a Disney film about a gang of youthful underdogs taking on a villain that has more in common with 1980s Russian villains than an Icelandic dude?
It’s all in the name, but that star-spangled costume helps too. But the Cap of “The First Avengers,” “The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War” isn’t quite what you expect. He’s a bit more idealistic. He cares about equality and fears government overreach, hardly the soldier you expect him to be, but a much more complex representation of someone rather literally donning the American flag on his chest.
I have no hatred or snark for this one, only love. When Will Smith says, “Welcome to Earth,” I sill cheer and immediately light up a cigar, regardless of where I am. And that monologue – say it with me, “Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”
At this point, you might’ve determined the methodology for this list is meandering. With that, I give you one of the best films of all time. But it is over the top. Mr. Smith (Jimmy Stewart) is such an idealist in Washington that he “filibusts” his way to political change. We might have a few examples of successful filibusters in recent memory, but it turns out all you have to do is suspend Congress to put those plans on ice. Sorry Smith, Washington isn’t the fantasy you make it out to be, and probably never was.
“Team America: World Police”
Perhaps the most offensive film you’ll ever see, “Team America: World Police” is a biting commentary on how we might overly bloat our righteousness in the fight against terrorism. Did I mention the film is entirely made up of string puppets, all thanks to the creators of “South Park.” It all comes to a head with the most patriotic song ever (though I can’t say its name here).
If none of these films makes you want to stand and salute, turn off the TV and watch some good old-fashioned fireworks.