M-SPIFF 2012 Review: God Bless America
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
Producers: Jeff Culotta, Sarah de Sa Rego, Richard Kelly, Sean McKittrick
Starring: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr
Country of Origin: USA
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 99 min.
While a couple on the run setting fires to America’s citizens and their warped sense of “good” isn’t really anything all that new, Bobcat Goldthwaite is able to take the idea and add some twists to the idea; while more importantly stirring in some pretty clever and funny dialogue to boot.
Frank is a slave to the everyday corporate grind (in a cube). His family life is gone, everyone surrounding him is an over-the-top caricature of a pop media drone and society as a whole seems hell bent on almost purposefully dumbing itself down into an “Idiocracy.” Rather than offing himself, Frank decides that maybe in the interest of preserving or “fixing” society as he knows it, it would be better to get his hands dirty and start taking care of business. Which would entail exterminating those responsible for such abhorrent behavior and their mentalities. Along the way he picks up an admiring high school girls who sees the world as just as “dead” as Frank does. Together they’re on the run, eliminating all those that “deserve to die.”
The bullets and violence that one expects from this sort of fare is fun for a while, but slowly loses its impact and sick fun fairly quickly. Especially since the movie can never elevate itself beyond the awesome depravity of the opening scene in Frank’s neighbor’s house, with whom he shares a wall. What works surprisingly well however and keeps the movie chugging along at a pretty even pace, are the two lead performances in Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr; the former ironically appearing only in Disney related projects previously. The two play their parts with gusto and their moments of “extreme dialogue” are moments not to be scoffed at. Skewering of everyone from the obvious (Fox News, American Idol, Westboro Church, etc.) to the more fun and obscure (Diablo Cody, cinema texters, or people who give high fives and misuse the word “literally” [YES!]).
So there’s certainly fun to be had and it never overstays its welcome – though it comes close near the end. Bobcat clearly has something to say and the movie doesn’t take long to say it. It must survive solely on its witty dialogue and outlandish violence. The violence is never all that outlandish or creative however. Nevertheless the film still works, resting on the squarely on the shoulders of the two leads.
Is it offensive as it could be or arguably should be? Not really. I felt it really pulled back on some of its punches and the people that need to see this movie probably won’t anyway. Is it hypocritical? Yeah, I could maybe see the spouting of that line for that critique but c’mon; it’s a comedy first and foremost and isn’t all that particularly deep so I don’t think it’s worth the argument. Is it anti-American? That too is a line that might be drawn. I do think it comes dangerously close at times in commenting negatively on the country itself rather than society and the people within the country. But again, it’s a line that isn’t really crossed and thereby once again does not come off as hypocritical – though easily could’ve been.
Audience laughed. Audience had a good time. Audience nodded/applauded approvingly (particularly with Frank and Roxy dispatching of some texting/talking teens in a movie theater). Some audience walked out. That about sums up the film in two lines.
As an aside, Goldthwaite himself was at my screening and he’s very charming and funny and an all-around nice guy. He hung out with fans afterwards and took pictures and signed stuff. SUPER cool guy!