The title and official posters may may it look like a straight-up action film, but American Ultra is actually a stoner comedy for the ages. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mike, a convenience store clerk who has unknowingly been trained by the government as a lethal sleeper agent. When he's not getting high, Mike works on a comic book. The comic revolves around Apollo Ape, a test chimp for NASA who gets into some crazy adventures. This is actually a more believable plot than those of a lot of Marvel superheroes (I'm looking at you, Ant-Man), but is Apollo Ape a real comic?
Actually, Apollo Ape was created specifically for this movie, as we quickly learn that the doodling is an expression of Mike's subconscious awareness of his killer abilities. The role played by Apollo Ape in America Ultra is therefore an important one because it foreshadows the crazy chain of events set off by Mike's discovery of his powers. Jesse Eisenberg said to the Watchlist that, in addition to the relatable nature of the characters in the film, the Apollo allegory was part of what drew him to the script. He explained, "I’d never read anything like it...when [Mike] becomes the target of an evil government plot, what happens to him is like an Apollo Ape story—it’s a stoner fantasy come to life.”
Some other hugely successful comedies have also used drawing and animation as an expression of characters' fantasies, although they don't always involve a deadly chimp assassin. Do you remember the cartoonish aspects of the below box office hits?
Instead of a traditional sex scene, this comedy showed Ron and Veronica taking a literal animated trip to "Pleasure Town" while "Help Yourself" by Tom Jones played in the background. Love is like candy on a shelf...
Jonah Hill's first major comedic role of Seth had him discussing how, as a child, he had a habit of drawing phallic figures. Explaining how his parents tried to remedy the problem by not allowing him to eat anything resembling male genitalia, Seth complains, "Do you know how many foods are shaped like dicks? The BEST kinds!"
Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle
A beloved stoner comedy, this movie features a scene in which Harold is knocked unconscious after being thrown from the back of a cheetah (no, really) and has an animated dream about a "Land of Burgers." The sequel also features a recurring theme of Neil Patrick Harris and a unicorn. Sounds about right.
So if outlandish animations are your thing, you have your pick of plenty of comedies to get your fix. The difference with the animation in American Ultra, though, is that in addition to being entertaining it's also a major plot device. Apollo Ape is basically a cartoon primate version of Jesse Eisenberg's character — including all the hair. So even though there isn't a real Apollo Ape comic for you to read, you can get your fill of the chimp's adventures on the big screen.
Images: Lionsgate, Giphy