By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
Hey, remember Bobcat Goldthwait?
Now you do
Well, he hasn’t acted in a studio film in nearly a decade, preferring to nurture and appear in the product of his second career- director. Ever since debuting with the “Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies”, Shakes the Clown, he’s directed a host of dark, dark dramedies with tagline-friendly hooks, including the “relationship drama with bestiality” Sleeping Dogs Lie and the Robin Williams-starring “reshaping the memory of your auto-asphyxiated son comedy” World’s Greatest Dad.
His latest follows Frank (Joel Murray), who gets fired and finds out he has a terminal illness on the same day. Fed up with life, he considers suicide, but decides to do something more “constructive” after he witnesses a spoiled brat freak out when she doesn’t get the car she wanted on a Super Sweet Sixteen-like show. After killing her, he gains a perky sixteen year old acolyte in Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) and goes roadtrippin’ with her to gun down the worst of society: singing show contestants, gay bashers, conservative talk radio hosts, and, shudder, people who talk in movie theaters.
The truly unforgivable
The film starts with a shotgun fantasy with a loud-ass baby filling in for the clay pigeons. The extent to which you are able to handle and/or laugh at that will go a long way towards telling you how much you’ll like this movie. When you couple this violence with its unceasing and on the nose pop culture parodies, God Bless America comes off like an uberviolent, ubernasty Idiocracy. Nothing about that isn’t awesome.
Goldthwait is also preaching to the choir with his liberal views and hatred of stupid morning talk radio and idiotic ringtone culture. If you’re not in that choir, it might be time to look for a new denomination, because this movie clearly isn’t for you. He does one better than just reminding his audience of things they hate, setting up his targets so beautifully that you can’t help but cheer when they get knocked down.
Still, he’s awfully goddam preachy. After reading an AV Club interview with him recently, I learned that Goldthwait intended for Frank’s long, windy speeches to progressively show how the character was spiraling out of control. Maybe I’m missing something, but Frank’s speech in the first fifteen minutes and his one before the finale sound almost exactly the same to me.
I wouldn’t be so against this if the film’s message was at all consistent. It falls into its own trap- denouncing being shocking for shocking’s sake on television and how that mindset is ruining comedy. Then it up and shotguns a baby. You could say that that is itself a clever, ridiculously over-emphasized way to underscore your point (even though that point is made later, not before), but you’re forgetting that this entire movie is about murdering people that suck. It’s fighting fire with fire.
And that always works
Ditto for Roxy, who they go out of their way to desexualize and in the process end up sexualizing even more. Goldthwait’s insistence on repeatedly going back to the well of Frank refusing her advances smacked of “milady doth protest too much”. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Roxy’s character in the first place, who Frank keeps comparing to Juno to piss her off. She owes a lot more to Ellen Page’s character from Super, though, which isn’t much of a compliment.
Her liner notes just said “Sassy, Criminally Insane, Jailbaity”
This movie doesn’t have as much to say as it thinks it does, but ultimately it’s pretty damn good at providing what it rails against- cheap vicarious thrills. Especially if you have the same stance on Fred Phelps and Glenn Beck, grab some beers and enjoy the carnage.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every skewing of bad television or radio
Take a Drink: for every murderous fantasy/actual murder
Do A Shot: for every speech that lasts longer than 20 seconds