Friday, May 11, 2012

God Bless America (2012) - Movie Review

Have you ever seen a vapid Reality-TV personality and wanted to eliminate them?  Ever wanted to strangle someone for being rude?  Well, here's the movie for you...

God Bless America is the story of Frank (Joel Murray, Bill's brother), a man who finally snaps when life continues to deal him a bad hand while simultaneously getting fed up with the decay of society.  You see that Frank is divorced and has a bratty, unappreciative daughter, has horrible neighbors, gets fired from his job for a bullshit reason, and then to really pile it on, he's told that he has an inoperable brain tumor.  Frank flirts with suicide only to stop when watching a self-entitled brat on a 'My Super Sweet 16'-like show.  He decides to do the world a favor by getting rid of her before checking out himself.

As Frank commits the murder, he's spotted by one the victim's classmates, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr).  However, Roxy thinks killing her classmate was awesome and encourages Frank to continue killing.  Together they go on a cross-country killing spree ridding the world of similar people they think are detrimental to society.

In the early part of the film, Frank has some great, articulate rants about how we've devolved, lack common courtesy, and how nobody can even have conversations anymore without checking their phone or talking about something they just saw on TV or the internet.  We celebrate the worst human qualities and feature it on TV every day.  This is where I felt God Bless America shined.  It's easy to identify Frank's rants and see that he's an intelligent guy.  Joel Murray did a good job of making him someone you initially like and sympathize with.  Outside of the killing, he's a level-headed guy.

Roxy, however, was a little harder to get behind.  She's completely desensitized to violence (another problem in modern society) and seems to revel in the killing.  It's not that Tara Lynne Barr's performance was bad, I actually liked her and think she's a young actress to keep an eye on, but it's more of a problem with the way the character was written.  She's actually more violent than Frank and wants to kill anyone that simply annoys her, where he only wants to kill people that are basically mean and 'deserve it'.

However, the main problem with the movie is when they talk about only killing people that 'deserve it', it gets into dangerous territory.  How do you know someone deserves to die?  Because they were mean to you?  Maybe they were having a bad day.  Many people that kill think the victim deserved it.  Where does it end?  For example, they happen upon a guy who's double parked a sports car and shoot him.  For double parking.  Really?  Sure, the guy is a dick, but is being dick or double parking a crime against society worthy of death?  You could make the argument that many of the people killed in the movie truly didn't deserve it.  It makes it harder to get behind the characters and what they are doing.  At a certain point you feel like you're simply watching two nuts on a rampage, while at the same time acting as if  they are the only sane people in a insane world.

I will say that they kill some people for talking and using their phones in a movie theater and that is something I can get behind, so I guess I'm guilty of dark thoughts like Frank's.  We probably all are.

I do think the underlying point God Bless America is valid and important.  Would the world be better off with less self-entitled, narcissistic dickheads?  Should we all start being a little nicer to each other and showing more common courtesy and decency?  Could we use less bad reality TV and TV personalities like the Kardashians.  Of course!  It's just that the point started to get lost as the movie went on and became about killing more and more people.

The flip side of this is if all the terrible stuff on TV annoys you so much, turn it off!  I hate a lot of that crap, too, but I don't watch it, because I try not to watch things that annoy me.

Another thing that's off about the movie, and it's actually a pretty big plot hole, is that despite committing all these murders, many with witnesses or being caught on camera, they are never on the run from the police.  Not until the very last scene of the movie are they in any danger of being caught by the cops.  There's barely even the hint of police throughout the movie.  In fact, Frank's ex-wife is engaged to a cop and when he sees them, he just goes, "Oh hey guys!  What's going on?"

God Bless America was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. If you seen any of his other films, he's got a pretty dark sense of humor.  I've enjoyed his previous films, so I had been looking forward to this.  The humor in the movie comes mostly from the parodies of the TV shows they feature.  The dialog itself, outside of Frank's rants, is pretty uneven.  It actually felt a little too preachy at points. 

Don't get me wrong, I liked God Bless America, but it felt like the great first half was let down by the second half.  It fizzles out and the conclusion isn't very satisfying.  I think it's worth watching, but it's better suited for a rental when you're in the mood for a dark satire about modern society.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

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