A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Depending on your political beliefs, the film's message about conspiracy and destruction will either resonate with you or not. The arguments are stated as fact, then all material included is designed to confirm that presumption.
Positive Role Models
Carefully selected actions and words in reenactments of events and speeches by Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Alexis de Tocqueville, and other historical figures are used to bolster the filmmakers' ideas. Conservative politicians and intellectuals are presented as admirable, dedicated, and insightful, while all representatives of the left (including earnest academics) are depicted as either naive or wrong-headed. Some liberal leaders and scholars are blatantly accused of wanting to destroy the American way of life.
Violence & Scariness
Re-enactments of historical battles show gunfire, bayonets, and violent hand-to-hand combat; men are killed and fall to the ground. One theoretical scene shows a sniper firing on and killing George Washington.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few characters smoke (particularly in the filmed reenactments).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that America -- a documentary film from Dinesh D'Souza and John Sullivan -- has a distinctly conservative point of view. It uses interviews, newsreel footage, reenactments (some showing violent battles with rifles, bayonets, and on-camera deaths), as well as speeches and the written words of America's founders to claim that there's an ongoing conspiracy, fuelled by leftist radicals, to shame America, undermine the country's principles, and ultimately cause its destruction by "suicide" from within. D'Souza is the interviewer, the narrator, and the lecturer. A few short scenes depart from actual history -- i.e. in a reenactment, George Washington is killed by a sniper's bullet, but he's soon on screen again, alive and well, as he leads the country in its formative years. How this film will be perceived depends mostly on viewers' existing attitudes and beliefs. For those who come to the film with no preconceptions, it's crucial to have resources for fact-checking and to understand who the players are and what they hope to achieve. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
For those who are inclined to agree with D'Souza and his colleagues, America will be an example of documentary filmmaking at its most enlightening. For those who disagree, it will seem a shoddy diatribe. In any case, it's an argument masquerading as a movie. While some of the performances in the reenactments are excellent (Don Taylor as Lincoln is particularly good) and some visuals of the country show its awesome beauty, the majority of the film is overly dramatic (for example, the relentless pounding of a blacksmith's forge is intercut with lovely landscapes), unnecessarily violent (bloody battle scenes with multiple deaths), and filled with hypotheses that are thin at best, inaccurate and purposefully provocative at worst. Mostly, it attempts to justify America's behavior by pointing out similar behavior by other countries.
Paranoia is the film's most unsettling element. Particularly disturbing is D'Souza's handling of some of the interviewees (for instance, a spokeswoman for the Sioux tribe and a professor of African-American studies), who seem like they might disagree with him if they fully understood his purpose. They bring a wide variety of opinions, perspectives, and motives to the microphone, but -- after the interviews -- D'Souza manages to refute the evidence of the experts who disagree with his premise. In fact, he uses their own words, earnestness, and trust to bolster his own claims in opposition. Finally, having previously taken on Obama in 2016: Obama's America, D'Souza here focuses on Hillary Clinton. "Reenactments" of her college days show her to be in the thrall of Saul Alinsky's radicalism and secretly working to undermine the American way of life as she moves forward. Bottom line? The worth of this film is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.