Screechy-voiced comedian-turned-dark-comedy auteur Bobcat Goldthwait once again attempts to mix the extreme with the profound in his new, bullet-ridden satire God Bless America.
He casts Joel Murray (Bill’s brother and Goldthwait’s co-star in that long-lost ’80s comedy One Crazy Summer) take the lead as Frank, a miserable divorcée whose life goes down the drain even more emphatically once he gets fired from his job and receives news that he has a brain tumor.
Already holding a pretty strong contempt for the uncivil times we live in, Frank forgoes putting a bullet in his brain in favor of putting one in the head of some spoiled-brat teen he sees on a reality show. This spur-of-the-moment execution gets him a fan in the form of Roxy (chipper newcomer Tara Lynne Barr), an enthusiastically antisocial teen who wants to tag along and join him on a righteous murder spree.
Together, these two roam the highways of America (surprisingly undetected by the authorities), busting caps in the asses of rabid right-wingers, reality-show douches, people who talk in movie theaters (my fave!) and dickheads who take up two parking spaces.
With God Bless America, Goldthwait gives us both a bloody indictment on our shallow, self-centered society and his very own, serial-killer road movie, occasionally getting his two stars to resemble classic, cinematic criminal couplings. (Am I crazy, or does Goldthwait have Murray and Barr dress up like Pumpkin and Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction in one scene?)
It appears that Goldthwait has a lot on his mind about how cruel, mediocre and asshole-ish our culture has become; he’s written preachy monologues that enable Murray and Barr to rant about our decaying society and its most corrosive inhabitants. However, for a director that has no qualms depicting the blasting away of a wailing baby in the opening minutes, Goldthwait seems to cop out when it comes to taking down bigger fish. Since we’re living in an age where 99 percenters want to see bankers, Wall Street tycoons and greedy corporations royally get theirs, aiming at easy targets like Bill O’Reilly and American Idol feels so 2008.
As with most of Goldthwait’s post-Shakes the Clown directorial work, God Bless America’s transgressive premise is merely window-dressing for the sympathetic, humanistic story that’s lurking underneath. And yet, this mash-up of violently unnerving shock and heavy-handed sincerity is uneven. You get a sense that Goldthwait—who, as weird as this may sound, is quite the impressive filmmaker—would rather make a movie where he didn’t have to do some quasi-anarchic, crazy shit to get people’s attention.
While Goldthwait’s heart is in the right place, it’s unlikely the blood spilled in his film will make annoying, loathsome people finally straighten the fuck up. Besides, some of us would rather see those people bitch-slapped instead of gunned down. Now, that would’ve been an awesome movie!