Unfairly Drubbed for Its Politics, GOD BLESS AMERICA Is Worth A Chuckle or Two
Jul 14, 2012
I understand that the Liberal intelligentsia claim that Bobcat Goldthwait's become a bit of an auteur. Good for him, since setting chairs on fire really had a limited shelf life as a career. However, if GOD BLESS AMERICA is any indication, li'l Bobby's got a lot of issues. Not so much "issues" as "hates," really. For example, it's clear he hates managers. And doctors. And guns. And commercials. And work. And people who don't turn off their cell phones during movies. And reality television. And celebrities. And random violence. And Republicans. And organized religion. And cancer. And precocious teenagers. And the Tea Party. And dime-store clothing. And maybe even sports cars. And, truth be told, he probably harbors a whole host of other hates. In fact, one could argue that he chocks his signature film so full of hate one wonders how the thing actually got edited to a reasonable length. Thank goodness he speaks and thinks in sound bytes otherwise this would've been a miniseries.
Unlike some others critics, I'm comfortable being perfectly fair (Bobcat and I probably come from different ideologies) by stating that the film mostly skirts with harmlessness. ("Skirts" with it, people.) I think it's pretty obvious that, on one hand, Bobcat doesn't want any viewers to take any of these characters any more serious than they would any other fictional character. He imbues them with lines that sound far too rich, far too rehearsed, and far too precious to be anything other than dialogue from a movie script - a satire rich in commentary but packed to the gills with too many influences to be anything more than the haphazard and scatterbrained observations of someone who's either (A) REALLY impressed with how he thinks or (b) watched WAY too much TV for one lifetime. If there's a consistent message here, it's that society's ongoing fascination with celebrity will no doubt be the death of us all ... or, at least, anyone who works in reality television.
For the most part, AMERICA sticks to the usual suspects, mining territory that's all-too-often been explored thematically in a host of other films. FALLING DOWN comes to mind. NATURAL BORN KILLERS does, too. Granted, AMERICA made some news in its original run by taking some lazy, factually erroneous, and unnecessary slights at the recent Tea Party, but those barbs are such a small, small piece of the bigger portrait he's painting here that I'm surprised some websites are still getting mileage out of it. In fact, I'd strongly suggest that most members of the Tea Party would probably agree with 50-60% of the points Bobcat scores in the rest of the film, should they take the time to sit and view it. When it does plumb some more treacherous depths - it flirts with the topic of inappropriate feelings between an adult and his child accomplice - it's clearly in full-comic-mode (at least, so far as I'm concerned). Do the jokes work? Probably as well as Bobcat intended.
Still, with a "controversial" film exploring plenty of controversies themselves, I would've liked a bit more substance. The leads (Joel Murray as the down-on-his-luck Frank, and Tara Lynne Barr as his too-plucky-for-her-own-good teen accomplice, Roxy) do the best they can with the material they were given, but - and I offer this SOLELY as a constructive criticism - I can't help but wonder if a more accomplished director could've pushed them in some different directions. Sometimes the writer is too close to the material to see some of the alternatives available to the talent in front of the cameras. Perhaps even having a director who shares his vision - maybe a Jason Reitman or even Diablo Cody herself - could've honed the finished product to the point where it didn't say so much about so many things and, instead, really pounded home the central message about celebrity in America. Not quite a hit but not a miss either, AMERICA tracks right down the middle.
GOD BLESS AMERICA was produced by Darko Entertainment and Jerkschool Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by Magnolia Home Entertainment. The disc looks and sounds just fine. To its credit, the DVD release is chocked full of special features, including deleted scenes, some making of featurettes, and an audio commentary with the Bobcat and his two leading stars. It's an impressive package that will give you some insight into the entire production process.
RECOMMENDED. As I said, put politics aside, folks, and you'll probably find plenty to enjoy in the `satirific' GOD BLESS AMERICA. Thematically, it has WAY too much going on for my tastes, though I'm more than aware others find it pitch perfect. Different strokes for different folks. Where some see a perfect bulls-eye, I see a just-above-average flick with some real untapped potential.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Magnolia Home Entertainment provided me with a DVD screener copy of GOD BLESS AMERICA by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
I have said it before that I really do not enjoy writing up a synopsis of movies that I review but the beautiful thing about "God Bless America" is that I will definitely enjoy telling you exactly what its about as I have come to relate to the film's protagonist on so many levels. Now I really love dark comedies because for some odd reason they share and divulge into the blunt truth and shows how people truly feel. I honestly feel like they even open eyes to the weirdos of the film industry and … more
*** out of **** Have you ever stared into the glowing box that is your television and realized that the other box that serves as its central drive - the cable box - is filled with so much utter shit? Have you ever wanted to just shoot that one asshole dead who takes up two parking spots in the lot with a single car? Have you ever felt as if the world just doesn't give a shit anymore? All of these things seem to apply to Bobcat Goldthwait, whose "God Bless America" is a delightfully … more
Star Rating: Frank (Joel Murray) sees nothing around him apart from the collapse of American society. Television is saturated with reality shows that exploit stupidity and glorify shallowness. The nightly news reports little apart from stories of murder and mayhem. Conservative political talk shows have devolved into cruel, bigoted gusts of hot air. People in general, namely his coworkers and neighbors, have become apathetic and stupid; genuine conversation … more