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Video-On-Demand Review: GOD BLESS AMERICA

Brad McHargue

April 16th, 2012

GOD BLESS AMERICA, the follow up to WORLD'S GREATEST DAD, Bobcat Goldthwait’s quirky indie dramedy about love and loss, is a film of a different tack; it is very aware of what it’s trying to do. It wears its premise on its oversized sleeve, piling heaping piles of excessive violence on top of a thin layer of subtext that tries so hard to break free that it ultimately fails to be much more than, well, excessive violence.

The film follows Frank Murdoch (Joel Murray), a divorced man fed up with all the rudeness and hatred that pervades the collective consciousness of America. After being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, he sets off on a quest to eliminate all those he feels to be a collective drain on society. His first murder is seen by Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a teenage girl with a seemingly horrible home life that agrees with Frank’s mission. Joining forces, they set out on a mission to rid the world of everything they deem reprehensible and detrimental to society.

In order for satire to be effective, it needs to employ some standard of subtlety. As a whole, GOD BLESS AMERICA doesn't live up to its shocking and exceedingly entertaining premise; from moment one its pop culture references and general disdain for everything are shoved down your throat, with numerous references to everything Goldthwait - and by extension, the viewing audience - hates in life. This is all well and good, but if you look deeper, it doesn't seem to be the film Goldthwait intended to make; it’s an attempted indictment of the celebration of the mundane, the mindless, and the pointless, but in the end, that’s all it really is.

Which is fine, I suppose. A movie doesn’t need to have a point to be entertaining, or even good. But Goldthwait lays on the satire so thick that any point he’s trying to make is ultimately futile. It fails to break free of its central conceit to inject a modicum of humanity in our two anti-heroes; you might agree with what they’re doing, but eventually even they lose sight of their initial goal, becoming that which they seemingly hate the most. Whether or not this is Goldthwait’s intent is unknown; it’s certainly not obvious, and maybe not even true. If it is, then GOD BLESS AMERICA succeeds slightly more than I give it credit for, but not by much.

Don’t get me wrong, though; the performances are great, with Joel Murray bringing a sort of affable, good-natured charisma to a man who really has nothing left to live for. You sympathize with his anti-hero status, especially when he teams up with Roxy, a foul-mouthed teen with her own agenda; she's the only person he has, even if she is just a teenage girl. Her addition is comparable to Ellen Page’s in SUPER, providing a sort of eagerness to the mayhem that serves as a contrast to Frank’s more level-headedness. Unfortunately, as the duo’s killing spree presses on with gleeful mayhem, the ultimate point of the film is lost in a hail of gunfire, leading to a movie that is fun on the surface, but lacking the sort of depth necessary to make it anything more.


Grade: C

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