Play It Again


It’s summer, so shit’s blowing up onscreen. As always, it’s blowing up more persuasively than the shit blown up the year before. But with each new benchmark in verisimilitude, both the shit and the explosions are biggie-sized, distancing them from the life they ape. Bruce Willis taking out a helicopter with a police cruiser now seems a model of old-school restraint. Shit blowing up means less and less: rote destruction accompanied by neither horror nor grandeur.

In The History of America, a rousing and absurd half-hour production from local animation powerhouse MK12, shit blows up just as good as anything Hollywood has offered since Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. There’s little horror, but there’s grandeur to burn. In an alternate-universe America, where war has erupted between cowboys and astronauts, the cowboys float a hot-air balloon through the painted heavens to dock with a space station, à la Kubrick, only to explode, à la al-Qaida. Things escalate, as in the old Warner Bros. cartoons. For the astronauts, it’s cowboy season. The attacked hit back, then get hit; round and round the action goes.

Gorgeous animation sells this madness. Cowboys move with fluid, true-life motion against simple backdrops that suggest the romance and expanse of the West. The ‘splosions are decent, but what matters are the imaginative sequences building up the mayhem, most notably a cowboy crashing a sign into an astronaut convertible. The money shot arrives from different angles, each spectacular.

By the time KC actor Jim Korinke dishes out an alternative-history lesson as crazy as anything from those McSweeney’s people, History of America has proved itself worth MK12’s four years of hard work.

Problem is, if you missed the premiere, you can’t see it. Like too many local films, it was screened one night and then spirited away for the film-festival circuit. Check out the trailer at

And join me in insisting on an encore. Film people, it’s not just family and friends who want to see your stuff. More public screenings, please.


Categories: Movies