God Bless America for intelligence, wit and guts (review)

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God Bless America: gun-totting teenage angst from Tara Lynne Barr as Roxy

The actor turned director Bobcat Goldthwait is most famous for screeching his way through the Police Academy films. But as a director he first caught my attention with his 2006 film Sleeping Dogs, which is about a young woman who confesses to her fiancée that she once experimented with bestiality. Then in 2009 he did the relatively impossible and coaxed a decent performance from Robin Williams in World’s Greatest Dad. And now, America is firmly in Bobcat’s sights, so let’s see what he makes of his country in this satirical black comedy God Bless America.

Frank (Joel Murray) has had enough of (what passes for) American culture. He sees the media filled with cruelty, exploitation, ignorance and intolerance. Recently divorced, fired for harassment and possibly terminally ill, Frank decides he has nothing left to live for, but instead of committing suicide, he decides to get all ‘Michael Douglas’ on society’s candy ass. But on his journey of reality star executions, he meets Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a high-school student who shares Frank’s resentment, rage and disenfranchisement. And so, like Bonnie and Clyde, they set about a nation-wide murder spree, killing America’s dumbest ‘celebrities’.

It’s plain to see that Bobcat has grown tired of reality TV and in god bless america he wonderfully sends up TV shows like The HillsBritain’s Got Talent/American Idol and even FOX news and its ignorant, right-wing news-anchors. However, he isn’t just mocking the formula of these shows, but illustrating their ethically and morally bankrupt nature, ie the way you’re invited to sneer at the contestants on Britain’s Got Talent, during the early stages of the ‘contest’. It just so happens that Bobcat chooses to do so with biting humour and a selection of guns. Take heed Simon Cowell, if you see a man in a Hawaiian shirt coming towards you, you’d better pray he doesn’t have a gun.

The film’s violence is fairly graphic and it begins with a dream sequence in which Frank murders his neighbours and their screaming baby; a scene which concludes with the mother bathed in her baby’s blood. Another violent scene sees Frank day-dreaming at work about killing his colleagues. When the dream sequence ends, we cut to Frank stood at his desk firing his stapler, as if it was a gun.

Roxy bares a certain resemblance to several recent teenage characters ie Libby/Boltie from Super (Gunn, 2010), Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass (Vaughn, 2010) and even Juno MacGuff in Juno (Reitman, 2007). And it appears that Bobcat has taken a particular dislike for Diablo Cody, and her output; as Roxy puts it, “F**k her for writing that movie, she’s the only stripper who suffers from too much self-esteem.”

God Bless America proves that Bobcat Goldthwait is more than just that guy from the Police Academy films. If he continues to make films with this intelligence and wit, then it won’t be long before his directing eclipses those movies. He’s an American director with real guts, and he’s not afraid to spill them either.

Here’s the trailer, but it is for mature audiences only, so if you’ve watched more of reality TV shows than it takes to find the remote, you should give it a miss

[imdblt]God Bless America[/imdblt]