You're either in or out with the films of Bobcat Goldthwait. The 1980s comedian/actor turned auteur has written and directed four of 'em so far, all of which have hinged on a solidly profane premise meant to shock audiences into laughter.
There's the one about the girl who once performed oral sex on a dog (Sleeping Dogs Lie, surprisingly sweet given the underlying device at play), the one where a man's son dies from auto-erotic asphyxiation (World's Greatest Dad), and, my personal favorite, Bobcat's alcoholic clown movie, Shakes the Clown, which opens with a child urinating on the actor's face in a bathroom. In short, Goldthwait has a tendency to rely on outrageous scenarios more than plot to drive his work behind the camera, a characteristic which hasn't shifted at all with his latest release, God Bless America.
What we have here, folks, is a comedy about a pair of serial killers, an older man, Frank (Joel Murray), and a teenage girl, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who go on a killing spree to protest the downward trajectory of American culture. Frank's divorced, living next to a pair of white trash douchebags, and has been both recently laid off and diagnosed with a brain tumor. Disgusted by the endless amount of human degradation on display on reality television and tabloid journalism, he decides to kill himself. When that doesn't work out, Frank figures; why not turn the gun on those causing his frustration?
God Bless America is a savage and darkly funny screed against the dumbing-down of American life. It shares a lot in common with Mike Judge's 1996 dystopian comedy Idiocracy, both films imagine (or is it perceive) a continually regressing state of popular discourse, turning the nation into an upside-down world where idiocy is applauded by the masses.
It's not difficult to hear Goldthwait's voice behind any place in the film where Frank begins to rant against what he identifies as the problems of this world; the character serves primarily as a mouthpiece for Goldthwait's assaults against Hollywood, conservatives, and whatever else pisses him off. At times, it feels like outtakes from one of Goldthwait's standup routines with a lil' gun play added into the mix. If you're a fan of the comic's caustic ravings, those moments are thrilling.
Unfortunately, the film does feel a little padded at times. The killings become repetitious and the targets begin to blend together, if only for their patent obviousness. The violence never approaches the mind-numbing depths of films like Kick-Ass or 300; Goldthwait's too smart to sink that low, but it does keep the film from completely fulfilling the promise of its setup. So it's not a perfect film, but it's quite watchable. And, if you can get down with the basic idea, really funny.
God Bless America begins its run at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, May 18th. More info available here.
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