Frank (Joel Murray) is cynical man. He hates the culture of the world around him and finds that it’s causing the fall of civilization. Suddenly, Frank hits a rut in his life; he gets fired from his job, his daughter is a spoiled brat that doesn’t want to visit him and his doctor tells him that he’s got a brain tumor. Just when things are at their bleakest and Frank is about to kill himself, he has a revelation, setting him on a mission to kill the dregs of society. As Frank goes on his killing spree, he picks up an unlikely accomplice in the form of a teenager named Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) who shares his hatred of modern pop culture and the mean spirited population of this generation. Together, the two seek to rid the world of reality TV stars, obnoxious political pundits and the condescending audience & douchebags that make noise at the movie theater.
God Bless America is the newest film from writer/director/former-annoying-presence in Police Academy movies Bobcat Goldthwait and, much like his other films it’s a dark, bitter comedy that satirizes the moronic side of society. Most of the time, it’s a biting and smart satire that delivers its points in very clever ways. Goldthwait fills the film with great comedic set pieces, a fantastic soundtrack and a brisk pace that keeps it moving along quite well. The two lead characters are likeable and played well by Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr. The two of them have a genuine charm & chemistry to their performances yet the general awkwardness of their age difference is touched upon and the psychotic flaws in their characters are given mention, yet never really developed that well.
That’s the main issue I had with God Bless America: Goldthwait at times seems way too focused on his soapbox than on his characters. Sure, a satire is supposed to make a point, but sometimes that point just feels so one sided, under-researched and occasionally just stops the story dead to make a point. For example, several times throughout the film, Murray will go on these long tangents about what’s wrong with people today; how kids are too obsessed with their cell phones, how people just regurgitate opinions heard in the media and how certain groups fear monger the masses. Do I agree with some of those points? Absolutely. Yet, I was just so turned off by the presentation of it . The satire here mainly succeeds when it’s woven into the story through Murray & Barr’s killing spree, when both characters have flaws that are revealed and have more dimension to them while Bobcat makes his point. When it’s just Joel delivering a rant, it feels less like educated satire and more like a grandfather screaming “Back in my day” to his grandkids without knowing what he’s really talking about. It may just be an age issue or that I’m not nearly as cynical, but it just rubs me the wrong way, especially since there was such little representation of the more genuine side of this generation.
God Bless America isn’t too far off in it’s targets. The celebrity obsessed spoiled brats of this generation are abundant and Goldthwait’s brutally dark comedic sensibilities are fun to watch unfold. Yet, the there are points when he just become too focused on delivering a message rather than mix that within the humor and story like he did so brilliantly in his last film World’s Greatest Dad. It is still worth the watch, but it just misses the mark of a truly great satire due to Goldthwait seeminly limited scope of the generation he’s literally slaughtering on film. That being said… I think everyone can agree that seeing a spoiled subject of My Super Sweet Sixteen getting her brains blown out is a bit satisfying. Or maybe I’m just a sick bastard. I can never tell anymore.