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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.35%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad: 26.09%
Total Crap: 4.35%

3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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God Bless America
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by Brett Gallman

"Hey, Bobcat, tell us how you REALLY feel."
3 stars

“God Bless America” is made for anyone who’s ever found themselves wandering among this great idiocracy of ours and has found it hard not to shoot a really dumb bastard right in the face. Because of this, it’s sort of preaching to the choir, and it never gets past asking a like-minded audience, “hey, wouldn’t it be fun to kill stupid, horrible people?” At first, you’re compelled to answer “right on, brother” before eventually asking writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait if he’s got anything else up his sleeve.

The answer is “no, not really,” and this doesn’t make “God Bless America” a bad movie; instead, it’s an just a breezy, cathartic screed for people that likely find a kindred spirit in Frank (Joel Murray); like him, we’ve all had it with our excessively shallow culture that rewards boorish and terrible behavior by crystallizing it on television and radio airwaves. Unlike him (presumably), we don’t all get the urge to get suicidal about it, but that’s exactly what he does when he learns he has a brain tumor.

If this weren’t bad enough, his personal life is in shambles anyway--he's a divorcee, and his young daughter often mirrors the self-centered suburban debutantes that get glamorized on MTV. She doesn’t even want to visit him on the weekends because “there’s nothing to do” at this house. With this in mind, he figures blowing his brains out is a viable option, but not before deciding to take some terrible people down with him first.

What follows feels like a 90 minute Twitter rant, only with live ammunition, as Frank bombs around the country picking off all the people he feels truly deserve to die: reality television starlets, rude movie theater patrons, Tea Party members--basically, if there’s anything that’s ever pissed Goldthwait off, it winds up in Frank’s crosshairs. And, on a basic primal level, this is absurdly dark and funny stuff--the first few times, anyway. “God Bless America” hammers this one note pretty hardly and loudly, and there’s no doubt that it’s perceptive and often dead on. Goldthwait easily captures a culture that’s saturated by radio and television soundbites that have substituted for actual conversation, and all the names have been changed to protect the guilty, but his veil is barely there. I think it’s safe to say that those who practice unsubtle satire won’t find their way onto Goldthwait’s hitlist.

Along the way, Frank does meet a teenage girl named Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) who is similarly sick of being the lone smart person wading in an otherwise shallow gene pool. So these two become a platonic Bonnie and Clyde (because objectifying a teenage girl would certainly land Frank on his own shit list), and, when they aren’t killing people, they’re airing their grievances by rattling off long lists of things that irk them. Moments like this and some admittedly rousing monologues by Frank are fun and bouncy, but they feel like they’ve been wedged in from a standup routine, and “God Bless America” is maybe two steps removed from just being a cinematic diatribe.

I say this because Murray and Barr really do work well as our leads; Murray is a fine, empathetic sad-sack whose face seems to have been permanently stretched into a hound-dog position. His younger counterpart, however, is quite a revelation--if you were to be extremely kind, you’d call Roxy a sociopath, but Barr infuses her with a bubbly sweetness. Frankly, someone this psychopathic has no business being this adorable. I like these two characters, and I like their chemistry; I even like what they’re up to--I just wish Goldthwait had given them somewhere to go. Despite some late-movie drama and revelations, Goldthwait seems to actively avoid going anywhere truly bold or challenging. This is a film that reveals a solid hand within the first two minutes and decides to stand pat.

That it comes in the wake of “Super” (and I think it’s very fair to say this is like “Super” if it were guided by a clearer moral compass) makes it seem a little perfunctory too. It has an unexpectedly sweet center in its characters like that film did, but, unlike “Super,” it never feels like it’s about them. Instead, they’re caught up in the wash of the ugly morass that surrounds them, and they’re essentially just conduits and mouthpieces for ideas that are almost as shallow as what’s being mocked. There’s no real shift in the dynamic of how these two operate within the culture--they’re positioned as the outsiders poking and prodding it, and I think there are some missed opportunities to let it push them back. If they’re an update of Bonnie and Clyde, then they’re an update of a heinous, murderous duo that’s become glamorized by media in the years hence, but that’s not something the film wants you to ponder.

Instead, “God Bless America” is just a scathing and sweet little satire--it’s angry, virulent, and spastic, and you’d expect nothing less from Goldthwait. However, it’s also just a little too slight--I certainly agree with much of what it has to say, but I got the gist quickly and was hoping for a deeper conversation.

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originally posted: 04/16/12 14:36:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2012 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2012 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: ActionFest 2012 For more in the ActionFest 2012 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/13/13 Flipsider A decent black comedy, but doesn't pay off as well as I'd hoped. 3 stars
9/23/12 D Started off as great Social Commentary, Ended as every Left Winger's wet dream 1 stars
7/16/12 The Taitor Decent opening + some memorable scenes but a rental at best, lost some interest as it con.. 3 stars
6/25/12 f.w. kuijpers very good 5 stars
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  11-May-2012 (R)
  DVD: 03-Jul-2012


  DVD: 03-Jul-2012

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