Film Review: American Made Movie

American manufacturing gets glossy, infomercial-style treatment in this tiresome documentary.

American Made Movie is as jingoistic as its title sounds. Though it begins with the decline of the various manufacturing sectors in the United States, Nathaniel Thomas McGill and Vincent Vittorio’s superficial overview shifts to the comeback of “Made In America” products, but without convincing evidence of a true renaissance. Audiences seeking a feel-good movie about the American Dream being alive and well will appreciate the tone and message; more discerning viewers will be both skeptical and bored.

The film starts promisingly with the narrator questioning the origins of the materials used to create the equipment and uniforms during the all-American game of baseball (mostly from Asian countries, as we learn). Next, we visit Detroit today, with strikingly gloomy shots of the once-great automaking city. But the film goes downhill quickly as a series of talking heads tell us what most of us already know: The great days of making goods in the U.S. are behind us. We hear from Scott N. Paul, director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing; Gilbert Kaplan, a trade lawyer; Lee Sheppard, a tax analyst; Paco Underhill, a “retail anthropologist”; Steve M. Suranovic, a George Washington University professor; Dave M. Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller General, and many others. What they have to say is familiar and becomes repetitive; there aren’t many solutions offered regarding free-market, global economy dominance, but everyone agrees that “we must do better.”

Interviews with small-scale entrepreneurs mark the film’s simplistic attempt at offering new hope for the nation. Such business owners as Mark Andol and Merrie Buchsbaum discuss how their American-made products are attracting customers via clever marketing and renewed patriotic fervor. Nothing is mentioned about the government creating jobs for those out of work or even the successful auto bailout of four years ago. Then again, American Made Movie steers as clear as possible from getting “political”; if anything, the documentary feels like a promotional effort from the right-leaning Chamber of Commerce.

Like another recent nonfiction film, American Meat, American Made Movie puts the best face possible on a dire and complex societal problem. Even the musical score is relentlessly syrupy. Though most of the production is solidly professional, the substance is insipid.