God Bless America
As I said when I reviewed World’s Greatest Dad dark comedies don’t really work for me all that often. I did like that movie though, so when God Bless America kept popping up on my recommended titles list, I decided to give it a look. Like World’s Greatest Dad this was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Unfortunately, while that movie was completely made by a fantastic second half, this one starts a little better, then starts to ramp up but doesn’t really get anywhere near that level of quality before fizzling out.
The movie stars Joel Murray as Frank, a man down on his luck. He’s divorced his young teen daughter is a brat who doesn’t want to come visit him, because his house is boring, also she and her mother have moved to another part of the country. On one fateful day his ex-wife tells him she’s getting remarried, he gets fired, and he’s diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He is contemplating suicide when a terrible tv reality show comes on his TV. He decides that rather than kill himself, he’s going to kill the program’s “star.” When doing so he’s met by Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) a disillusioned teenager who thinks that what he’s doing is awesome. The two new friends, (strictly platonic, at Frank’s insistence) embark on a nationwide killing spree, wiping out jerks, television pundits, citizen protesters, and more.
The premise is actually pretty good with plenty of room to be a dark comedy. In fact, my problem ins’t really so much with the darkly comedic nature of the film at all. Rather, I just don’t feel like there was really enough to make a full 90 minute feature here. It could have been a great short film, but that’s not what was released. This is a movie about a man who’s become so fed-up with society that he’s reached the breaking point. There’s certainly a degree of believability there. I mean, who amongst us hasn’t secretly wished violence against people who talk in movie theaters, or the kids on those stupid Sweet Sixteen reality shows. Murray is great as Fank, and really sells how and why a man might do this. Of course, one of the ways Goldthwait, has him do this is through a series of soliloquies. And that’s where the problem comes in. There are too many of these. The first one is great, but by the third or foruth one it’s getting old. The film also has enough time on its hands to venture into some pretty hard liberal politics. There’s probably a good thirty minutes that’s less dark comedy and more left-wing eliminationist fantasy. In a movie supposedly lamenting the plight of popular culture, this odd embrace of the politics of popular culture felt a little out of place.
So at the end of the day, I can’t recommended this movie. I do think that it’d be entirely possible to take exactly what’s on the screen now, edit judiciously and produce a pretty awesome 30 minute short film. Unfortunately there’s another hour of stuff in there, and that’s not worth seeing.