Monday, May 14, 2012

Reel Thoughts: Maimed in the USA

I never considered myself a Bobcat Goldthwait fan, but then he started making wild black comedies like Sleeping Dogs Lie and his new satire, God Bless America. Joel Murray (brother of Bill Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray) is finally given a movie to headline, and although its ultimate targets are simple and somewhat dated, getting there is all the fun.

Fun is an odd choice of words for a film about a man who, faced with an inoperable brain tumor, sets off on a cross-country killing spree with a runaway teenager. However, the people this modern day Bonnie and Clyde decides to off are people that a lot of us would never dream of saying “deserve their fate”, as much as we may think it. God Bless America is like Serial Mom’s sensibility grafted onto Natural Born Killers’ mindset.

Frank (Murray) often fantasizes about killing off his annoying coworkers and the rudely noisy couple with the wailing baby next door, but once he gets a death sentence from his distracted doctor, his nausea-inducing television diet of reality shows about bad girls, American Superstars and super un-sweet sixteen year-olds, he sets off on a mission: he will rid the world of people who are mean and hurt people.


He starts with Chloe, a spoiled rotten reality star whose parents buy her everything. Chloe’s schoolmate Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) witnesses the crime and convinces Frank she would be a great accomplice, even suggesting potential next targets. A Glenn Beck-style TV bully, a bunch of Westboro-styled hate-mongers and a smarmy TMZ-type host all earn the duo’s wrath, before the sight of a William Hung-like contestant being laughed at on American Superstars gives Frank his ultimate target.

God Bless America is not afraid to take on media’s biggest bullies and narcissists, exposing not only the groups Frank opposes, but also his self-importance at naming himself executioner of decency. A lighter touch with the material and a broader swath of people on whom the two exact revenge would have raised the film to Serial Mom absurdity and perfection, but God Bless America ends up dulled by going after American Idol and the rude host who hasn’t been on it for two seasons.

Still, the scene where Frank and Roxy open fire on sign-wielding protestors at a funeral will give a secret buzz to anyone who has seen the same kind of ignorance in news reports. Not everyone can fight back with a flash mob of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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