Frank (Joel Murray, TV’s Mad Men) is tired. Of everything. But mostly how stupid and how ignorant and superficial his fellow Americans have become, how incapable they are of face-to-face conversation, how the only things they seem to believe in are shallow platitudes and singing competitions, how spoiled and disrespectful they allow their children to be, how they lap up and regurgitate all the fear-mongering they’re spoon-fed without question.
“Everything is so cruel now,” he says. “I just want it all to stop. … Why have civilization any more if we are no longer interested in being civilized?” (Murray is given a number of such lengthy, complex monologues, and he nails them.)
So when the divorced man is fired and learns he has a huge brain tumor, he decides to go out with a bang: suicide … but only after he kills a selfish brat who’s a reality star on a show similar to MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. She represents everything he believes is wrong, so it’s only natural he take her out.
The assassination is witnessed by another student, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr, in her first big role after guesting on a few Nickelodeon kidcoms). Rather than turn him in, she joyfully becomes the Bonnie to his reluctant Clyde. “Do you take requests?” she asks — Kardashians and Twi-hards top her list — and they’re off on a road trip that puts the LOL in NBK, gunning down two-spot parkers and movie-theater talkers/texters.
With not-at-all veiled references to American Idol, Howard Stern, Mountain Dew ads, Fred Phelps, Fox News and more, God Bless America is one cathartic comedy — at once the very definition of free speech in action and the most savage, ring-true satire of life in these United States since 1989’s Heathers.
It’s also Goldthwait’s most accomplished film yet. I’ve enjoyed his past turns calling all the creative shots, like World’s Greatest Dad and Sleeping Dogs Lie, but they didn’t have quite the fleshed-out feel and repeat value this one does. Neither of those previous efforts was shy about skirting the edges of good taste — respectively dealing with autoerotic asphyxiation and bestiality — but those aren’t exactly problems plaguing our great nation.
God Bless America, on the other hand, has a very sharp zeitgeist point to make, and the open-minded among us gladly will take it right through the eye socket. That’s essentially Goldthwait preaching to the choir, but give him credit for having the balls to say it in such a public platform. I’m afraid the movie and its director won’t be appreciated properly for decades. By then, will this mess be long behind us, or have snowballed? Only the country’s appetite for Jersey Shore and its spin-offs know for sure. —Rod Lott