Movie Review: “God Bless America”

ImageWith rudeness, cruelty and self-absorption now universally heralded American attributes, with cynical political opportunists, unworthy “talents” and lowlifes dominating reality TV, the time is certainly right for a “Falling Down” remake.

Which is the jumping off point for “God Bless America,” comic-turned-filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait’s 100 minute tirade about the Kardashian/TMZ/Glenn Beck era in American popular culture.

Joel Murray, a career character comic, usually a third or fourth banana in other films and TV shows, is Frank, a divorced, bitter loner who lives next door to ill-mannered ignoramuses and who spends way too much time absorbing the vapid, “cacophony of crazy” that dominates TV — bratty rich kids on reality shows, no-talents brought on an “American Idol” clone  just to be mocked, a world that celebrates the vulgar, the mean and the clueless.

His own daughter’s a brat, his workplace is a repository of idiots and a minefield of political correctness.

“This is the ‘Oh no, you DIDN’T say that’ generation,” he gripes to colleagues, cubicle drones obsessed with the latest humiliated contestant on this or that show. He’s not laughing? He must not get it.

“I get it. And I am offended.”

Bad news from a self-absorbed doctor is the last straw. Frank, who has fantasized about wiping out his neighbors and others, now has a deadline. And he has a mission. Punish the neighbors. And take a trip south from his Syracuse home to kill Chloe, the shrieking hysteric of a teen princess who stinks up the airwaves with her brattiness on reality TV. 

Frank picks up an equally misanthropic sidekick along the way. Testy teen Roxie has a question, and a list.

“Who are you killing next? A Kardashian? NACSAR fans? People who ‘High Five?’ Mormons?”

Let the spree killing begin.

They unload on idiots who use cell-phones in theaters, Tea Partiers taunting people without health insurance, churches whose members hold up “God hates” this or that signs. Roxie (Tara Lynne Barr) blurts out “You know what I hate?” And Frank tries to talk her down off the ledge.

“Are you ADD, Juno?”

The banter is mostly banal, performed with banality. Attempts at being wacky and hip and flip fall flat as we’re treated to lectures on the genius of Alice Cooper and the “civilization” that has ceased being civilized. Fantasy sequences — dreams — including imagining themselves as in the motorcade as JFK and Jackie in Dallas — are just tone deaf.

“Falling Down” is just the main movie borrowed from here, but there are hints of “SUPER” and “Heathers” to boot, films about social misfits punishing the unworthy.

But seriously, if we’re going to get a movie about silencing cruel people who laugh at the less fortunate, I’m not sure the old Bobcat, a guy whose stand-up act used to have a semi-stoned, fresh-out-of-the-straight-jacket laugh-at-me lunacy about it, is the guy for the job.

The rants themselves are articulate, but inconsistent. Frank loves free speech, but he’s silencing people who don’t “deserve” it. He’s for unrestricted gun rights, but demonstrates most convincingly why that’s an out of date proposition. 

And there’s a reason the able Mr. Murray always plays the put-upon neighbor, fourth best friend and the like. He’s able to deliver the lines but isn’t the least bit compelling as he does. We don’t feel anything for or about this leading man.

So Goldthwait doesn’t quite have his sermon worked out, and he sure as heck didn’t find the best preacher to deliver it. “God Bless America” shows that whatever his other gifts, satire is beyond the grasp of the old Bobcat.

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language including some sexual sequences

Cast: Joel Murray, Tara Lynn Barr, Larry Miller, Mo Gaffney

Credits: Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, a Magnet release.

Running time: 1:44

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