Bobcat Goldthwait’s scabrous media satire plays like a sick and twisted wish-fulfillment fantasy for folks fed up with a modern culture that rewards crassness and stupidity. But while Goldthwait’s bile is cathartic, it also feels a bit cheap.
Joel Murray (brother of Bill) plays a put-upon cubicle drone who spends hours every night flipping channels, constantly appalled by all the raunchy reality shows and bloviating cable-news hosts. Indeed, God Bless America ’s finest sequence is a barrage of vidiocy so dead-on, it just might be transcribed directly from what’s on the air. So when diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, Travis Bickle does what any sane man would: He starts blowing them all away.
Murray finds an unlikely sidekick in precocious Tara Lynne Barr, a bloodthirsty teenager who immediately suggests they shoot Diablo Cody next. The two head out on a cross-country killing spree, taking pot-shots at Tea Party activists, a Bill O’Reilly clone and—most gratifyingly—people who talk during movies.
I laughed a lot during God Bless America. There’s a terrific, soulful performance from Murray—last seen pissing his pants in the office as Mad Men’s doomed Freddy Rumsen. He anchors Goldthwait’s preachy monologues in genuine disappointment, and his despair makes a nice match with Barr’s over-caffeinated pixie.
What’s unfortunately missing from the picture is any sense of complexity or escalation, which comes as a surprise because Goldthwait’s 2009 World’s Greatest Dad tackled similar themes with much thornier results. The police don’t seem to have much interest in our serial killers, and the age-inappropriate sparks between Murray and Barr are snuffed by the screenplay just as fast as the actors can strike them. Nothing really goes anywhere, and Goldthwait never really gets around to addressing the question of whether or not shooting people “for being rude” isn’t itself an act of rather supreme rudeness.
Read our interview with director Bobcat Goldthwait here.
Bobcat Goldthwait—the star of ‘80s comedies he admits were terrible; the early ‘90s talk show saboteur who set fire to Jay Leno’s couch; the spastic comic who was (unfairly) lumped in with Andrew “Dice” Clay et al—has been reborn as a filmmaker, and a good one.
When it comes to vigilante justice, the right gets all the fun. While Paul Kersey and Dirty Harry placate conservative wet dreams about shooting first and never asking questions, the left makes somber killjoys like "The Ox-Bow Incident" and "In the Bedroom."