What’s it going to take, America? What’s it going to take for us to act a little more kind to each other? That’s the question director Robert "Bobcat" Goldthwait puts forward in God Bless America, a biting satire of our American pop culture. Without batting an eye, Goldthwait drives the message home with a bullet that lodges itself in the head.
Goldthwait is no stranger to long walks on the dark side of life. His previous directorial effotts - Sleeping Dogs Lie (from 2006) and World's Greatest Dad (from 2009) - were fine examples of the subversive material that he works best with and each had their fair share of black humor. But – much like the underappreciated Shakes the Clown (from 1991) - Goldthwiat returns to the demented and the broad (yet finely-tuned) world of dark, dark satire with God Bless America…
…and shoots us in the face.
World-weary Frank (Joel Murray) is barely squeaking out an existence. He hide from the realities of a cold and cruel world by watching reality television and attempts to drown out the noise of his idiotic neighbors (and screaming baby) with infomercials. His constant expression of expressionless says it all: “Help me.” He decides to do something nice and genuine for a co-worker.
It gets him fired.
And so Frank snaps. His violent epiphany leads him to an awkward teen called Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) and together, like Bonnie and Clyde, the duo head on down the highway and kill a lot of worthless people and celebrities as they bring America to its senses. Goldthwait – also the writer – has a point about our completely senseless modern culture.
Equal parts inspired – from farting ring tones to American Idol – and angered by notions of celebrity and mediocrity, the razor-sharp script tackles a heavier notion than the depression our culture is causing us (and Frank and teenagers) and presents Americans as so starved for some self-gratifying attention that they will kill/die for it. Stardom by any means necessary. The character tirades are reminiscent of Broadcast News and as satisfying, but it’s the dark truth that the movie uncovers which will offend most Americans. Is it a victim of bad taste? Do too many innocents die? When a baby is blown to bits in the beginning, you kind of have to (a) go with the ride and see where it takes you or (2) shut it off. In doing so, though, the consumerist wins and America is up for the sacking.
Is it too late for a movie like God Bless America? Not at all.
Sharing some themes with Falling Down and Natural Born Killers, God Bless America takes a tongue-in-cheek lashing out at the consumerism that feeds this empty culture warned about in those movies. It’s hysterically so right and so wrong on so many levels that it’s impossible not to watch. I double dog dare you not to laugh when Frank guns down the spoiled teenage star of a reality show because her parents didn’t buy her an Escalade. What exactly are we doing to the brains of the kids who watch these programs? Setting them up to fail and fail big.
God Bless America – with its solution to the woes of an empty culture being to kill, kill or be destroyed - has arrived just in the nick of time, I would say. Bang, bang, shoot, shoot, Bobcat.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence and language including some sexual sequences.
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
Cast: Joel Murray; Tara Lynne Barr; Melinda Page Hamilton; Rich McDonald; Maddie Hasson
Genre: Crime | Action | Comedy
Tagline: Taking out the trash, one jerk at a time.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Why quit now? You kill yourself, Frank, and you're killing the wrong person, which would be a shame when there are so many other Chloes out there who need to die."
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Home Video Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: May 11, 2012 (limited)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: July 3, 2012
Synopsis: Frank (Joel Murray) has had enough of the downward spiral of American culture, which he sees as overrun with cruelty, stupidity and intolerance. Divorced, recently fired, and possibly terminally ill, Frank truly has nothing left to live for. But instead of taking his own life, he buys a gun and decides to take out his frustration on the cruelest, stupidest, most intolerant people he can imagine—starting with some particularly odious reality television stars. Frank finds an unusual accomplice in a high-school student named Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who shares his sense of rage and disenfranchisement, and together they embark on a nation-wide assault on our country's dumbest, most irritating celebrities.
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - July 3, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); BD-Live
Playback: Locked to Region A (reviewed)
Shot digitally, the 1080p/AVC encode (framed in the intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio) is clean and free from excess filtering and issues with saturation. The picture is soft in areas where the close-up is in frame. Clarity is strong throughout, though. Fibers in clothing and slight ticks in facial features are noticeable. There are certain frames where depth of field sometimes becomes an issue with haze. The colors are bright and warm and – this is a first – decidedly bold in their blandness (notice the costumes). All this is a stylistic choice, so it is hard to fault the presentation. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is a bit lacking in sonic strength. Exteriors are a problem with the dialogue being a bit lost in the mix. Nothing a volume change won’t fix, but be sure to adjust the volume back down before the gunfire goes off. Neighbors will be calling.
- Well, this is a surprise. Picture this: a commentary that’s as funny and as insightful as the film! Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray, and Tara Lynne Barr have recorded a commentary track that is not to be missed if you found ANY of the themes/ideas in the film to be of interest. A grand and patriotic time for all.
Released by Magnolia, God Bless America isn’t lacking for supplemental material. It might be a bit generic, but it’s all here. Things get started off with a quite strong making-of documentary that covers every bit of detail that you could want. You get on-set footage and interviews with cast and crew. There is a good gallery of deleted sequences and parodies – including a baby pageant named Jersey Shorties – and a nice collection of outtakes that are good for a laugh. There’s a central interview session conducted with Goldthwait, Murray, and Barre that is both candid and interesting. This is followed by your usual HDNet promo and a music video.
- Behind the Scenes: Killing with Kindness (28 min)
- God Bless TV: Deleted and Extended Scenes (5 min)
- Outtakes (3 min)
- Interview with Bobcat Goldwait, Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barre (28 min)
- HDNet: A Look at God Bless America (5 min)
- Roxy & Frank Music Video (3 min)
- Theatrical Trailer