Monday, 2 July 2012

God Bless America

In the event that you've heard of God Bless America, it's probably because you saw director and former Police Academy weirdo Bobcat Goldthwait's previous film, World's Greatest Dad, which came out of nowhere two years ago and was a surprisingly good indie dramedy featuring Robin Williams and wankicide. As such you're probably hoping for more of the same. Well, bad news: God Bless America is not surprisingly good, has no Robin Williams and features precious little wankicide. In fact now that I think about it there's no wankicide at all. Not even a small fingering injury.
It's the story of a middle-aged man with a shitty existence whose firm belief that modern life is rubbish sends him on a killing spree, accompanied by a teenage girl with a similar outlook. It begins well, with a gloriously sick fantasy sequence that's designed to shock and amuse in equal measure, but from there on in it has nothing to say that hasn't been said a thousand times before. The only way you might find it original is if you've never seen Network, Falling Down, Natural Born Killers, Kick-Ass or Super, or if you've never read a book by Ben Elton or anything Charlie Brooker's ever written.

Attempting to get the audience on side by pointing out how awful reality TV, religious homophobes, people who talk on the phone in cinemas, noisy neighbours and extreme right-wing talk show hosts are is barely groundbreaking, but God Bless America doesn't even go anywhere new from there. It's as if it realises it doesn't know what else to say apart from "isn't all this stuff shit?", so just keeps saying it until the money runs out. Then it says it some more, in a finale that's been written for a film with a much bigger budget than this one.
Joel Murray (brother of Bill, famous acting sibling fans) as vengeful loser Frank is good value, but Tara Lynne Barr as his whiny, hate-fuelled sidekick is grating and unsympathetic. Considering her role is basically an uncostumed Hit Girl, both she and Goldthwait's script needed to try much harder to beat the competition.

There are some early LOLs, but once it's clear that the film only has one joke, diminishing marginal returns dictate that by the end you're unhappier than when you went in, and that's a less than ideal position for a comedy to be in, even if it is an indie one. Better luck next time Bobcat, but don't worry too much; we'll always have wankicide.

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