[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of SXSW 2012. It has been reposted to coincide with the film’s theatrical and video on demand release.]
I think that we live in a very jaded world where it’s very easy to find something to hate in everything in pop culture. For example, terrible films make millions of dollars at the box office, millions of people vote for their favorite “singer,” and millions of celebrity-obsessed gossipers practically run the internet.
God Bless America is the film for those of us who absolutely hate everything I just listed.
God Bless America
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Release Date: May 11 (US Theatrical and VOD)
God Bless America is about a jaded middle-aged man, Frank (Joel Murray), who is diagnosed with a life-threatening tumor. Facing the inevitability of death, he contemplates suicide. However, while channel surfing across the garbage being shown on TV, he stumbles across a My Super Sweet 16 parody in which a young girl bosses her parents around. Driven by a notion of hate and disgust, he ventures out to kill her. Supported by a classmate of Chloe’s, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), Frank embarks on a mission across America to kill those he believes to be rude people.
Simply put, both Frank and Roxy are driven by their anger towards society, specifically the outrageous depictions of society in the media. However, a huge plot hole arises: If Frank is so disgusted and jaded with pop culture, why is he shown obsessively watching TV? Wouldn’t it be much easier to turn the TV off instead of, say, going on a killing spree? Granted, there wouldn’t be a movie without it, but I just don’t see why somebody so consumed with hatred and anger would feed into that.
The world that writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait is full of extremes, as is the nature of any proper satire (Perhaps this is why Frank was so obsessed with TV?). With any satirical work, God Bless America is rooted in American politics, just heightened to extreme levels, ranging from extremely standoff-ish Sean Hannity-like political figures to office workers obsessed with making fun of the latest terrible American Superstar contestant. Anybody whose interests run counter to that are cast off and looked upon with judgmental side-glances, much like Frank and Roxy.
Abetting the theme of extremes is exactly how dark and violent the film is. Goldthwait didn’t hold back punches as he allowed both Frank and Roxy to kill anybody within reason (that is to say, those who Frank thought were “not nice people”). There’s about as much blood in this film than most of the gore-driven horror films out, which helps add to the “dark comedy” theme Goldthwait was going for. The chemistry between the two leads is great. Contrasting Murray’s droll portrayal of Frank is Barr’s hyperactive and WAY-too-interested-in-death portrayal of Roxy. If you were to take Hit-Girl from Kick Ass and place her into a more grounded, realistic universe, you’d come up with Roxy.
The problem, though, is just how drawn-out the film is. It has some legitimate laughs, but the premise is just played out. We get it: America is run by inconsiderate jerks and celebrity-obsessed fanatics. God Bless America presents nothing new, other than simply putting to film what we’ve all wished we could. Maybe if the film were better grounded and not so extreme with its depictions of what’s wrong in the country, the effects of Frank’s and Roxy’s “mission” would carry more gravitas. But as it stands, it’s nothing more than yet another political and social satire, just with extreme levels of violence.
Maxwell Roahrig – It’s rare that I see a movie that hits me this close to home. I’ve been in the state of mind pop culture as it stands is the worst thing about our society. It has done nothing but breed hateful idiots devoid of any sense of intelligence. I thought there were six of us that felt this way. But as it turns out, Bobcat Goldthwait gets me. God Bless America is the movie made for people like me who’re fed up with the status quo of bullshit reality TV and awful music. The film is a breath of fresh air from indie movies who don’t have anything interesting to say. It’s a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, and why should it? Its absurdity and satire speak for itself. I love this movie, and I can’t wait to share it with my like-minded brethren. 89 – Exceptional