- Rated R
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All photos © Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ome people are going to really love director Bobcat Goldthwait's new movie “God Bless America” – perhaps best described as what might happen if William “D-Fens” Foster and Hit-Girl were let loose into the world of Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” – but the film's charms were admittedly lost on me. Though the movie attempts to be a scathing commentary on the de-evolution of our society through things like reality TV, political punditry and a general lack of kindness, it never amounts to much more than a one-dimensional piece of revenge fantasy that isn’t any better than the subjects it's satirizing.
The film stars Joel Murray as Frank, a sad-sack divorcee with a bratty daughter who epitomizes everything that’s wrong with American culture; and to make matters worse, he's just been fired from his job and informed that he has a deadly brain tumor. With nothing more to live for, Frank decides to take out his pent-up frustration over the decaying state of society on a self-entitled reality TV star by shooting her in the school parking lot. He immediately earns an admirer in spunky teenager Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who applauds Frank for ridding the planet of such a horrible person and convinces him to continue his crusade as they embark on a cross-country road trip like some modern day Bonnie and Clyde, gunning down anyone they think deserves to die.
Of course, this is where the film runs into a few problems. Though it’s easy to get mad at shows like “Jersey Shore” for making celebrities out of grade-A idiots and fame whores, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be killed for it. The same goes for people who talk during movies (a few of the many unlucky victims to cross Frank and Roxy’s path), because although they certainly warrant some form of punishment for being rude, it’s pretty extreme to suggest that putting a bullet in their head is a viable solution. Furthermore, a lot of Goldthwait’s targets are such low-hanging fruit – from a Glenn Beck-like talk show host, to a certain reality TV singing competition that Frank believes is exploiting its William Hung-inspired contestant – that it all seems too easy.
He does make some good points about the downward spiral of pop culture over the past decade, but that doesn’t exactly excuse the actions of his characters. When the duo isn't busy killing D-list celebrities and other people they deem to be awful human beings, Frank and Roxy launch into pretentious, long-winded rants about why they're above such nonsense. But while Joel Murray and Tara Lynn Barr manage to make the characters somewhat likeable, their elitist attitudes prove far too destructive to the story. Had Frank and Roxy eventually come to the realization that they're complete hypocrites by engaging in the very behavior they've condemned, "God Bless America" might have been more effective. Instead, it's just another good idea ruined by some poor execution.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Despite the fact that it's a small indie film with a pretty niche audience, Magnolia has loaded the Blu-ray release with quite a bit of bonus material. In addition to an audio commentary with director Bobcat Goldthwait and stars Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr, there’s also a decent behind-the-scenes featurette (“Killing with Kindness”), a handful of deleted and extended reality TV clips, the usual HDNet puff piece, and an interview with Goldthwait, Murray and Barr that repeats a lot of what’s covered in the other extras.