ActionFest 2012: GOD BLESS AMERICA Review
If Bobcat Goldthwait was in charge of the Idiocracy doomsday clock, we will not have to wait until the year 3001, America is sitting at one-minute-to-midnight in the here and now. Case in point, his protagonist Frank is a down to earth, rather average white collar drone who seems to posses an abundance common sense at odds with everyone around him. Not just his social circles or family, but pretty much all aspects of mass culture in America. Contributing to his perpetual migraine are his inconsiderately loud neighbors whose parenting skills (and parking habits) leave a lot to be desired. His ex-wife and her husband seem hell bent, through laziness and cluelessness on turning his daughter into a materialistic and shrill whiner; all the while keeping her from visiting her father. TV and Radio are as unlistenable and obnoxious as his co-workers who repeat just about everything they say verbatim. In short, the reality TV, Fox News, TMZ, and radio shock-jock culture taken to the extremes by Mike Judge's sci-fi farce pretty much exist today - everything in God Bless America has easily identifiable analogues - and the director has a perfect everyman (or sliding-scale genius) to voice his manifesto with what is wrong with his country.
Now one might criticize a movie denigrating 21st century America for its loss of empathy, dignity and kindness, by making a film a vulgar and facile - shooting fish (or babies) in a barrel - as God Bless America. But if Oliver Stone got away with it in the late 1990s with Natural Born Killers, I am on board to let the guy from Police Academy II pander mightily to me with 90 minutes of manifesto-style monologuing and mayhem. Hell, I enjoyed the naughtiness of last years ActionFest comedy of vigilante-manners Super, and this film feels like the road trip version of that one with less spandex and more fire arms. Goldthwait, on screenwriting and directing duty for the fourth time, ups the ante of precocious C-bomb dropping teenage girls (an alarming number of these characters seem to be popping up, from Hit Girl to Boltie) with Roxy (Tara Lynn Barr) who might not have the best aim with a handgun, but does a mean Jeff Foxworthy impression and has an impressively long list of grievances (and Star Trek trivia) for one so young. Between Frank and his pubescent side-kick, nobody is safe from harsh words and hot lead. Remember the Alamo Drafthouse texter and her drunken complaint call? Who doesn't want to watch the smack down to rude people in movie theatres, double-parkers at the mall or self-entitled twits on cheap reality shows? This is that movie. And that is about as far as it goes. Perhaps as much from budgetary limitations as things to say beyond 'most people suck.' There are a couple pithy montages along the way, some Alice Cooper tunes (and a convincing treatise on the influence of his stage showmanship) and a gun dealer who has watched Jackie Brown perhaps a few too many times, but ultimately, God Bless America gets its message out there in the first act, and the rest, which is admittedly quite funny, is more or less spinning its wheels to the inevitable. An odd, but predictable trope of the romantic comedy genre, a misunderstanding/re-uniting that is embedded awkwardly in the latter half is a bit rickety in light of the stellar development and heart of central relationship in the early going. Perhaps the boldest aspect of the film is that many of the people who cheer the targets of Franks rage early on will be targets of it later. Impotence and intolerance are in the air and nobody is safe, least of all Frank and Roxy who have drank the very Kool-aid they espouse to pour down the drain. Personally, I'm not ready to flush the toilet just yet, and I suspect the writer director isn't either, but God Bless America is a harmless enough bit of letting off steam. It certainly beats Ass: The Movie.
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