I work from home, and I’m a huge procrastinator. That means that I spend a lot of time on the computer – most of which is spent goofing off – and watching bad movies on Netflix is a favorite pastime. That being said, I’ve watched some really bad movies but never have I ever come across anything worse than Twilight.
The latest time-waster I subjected myself to was God Bless America, written and directed by Bobcat “What has he done lately besides Shakes the Clown?” Goldthwait. Actually, that’s rather unfair: Bobcat (because we’re on a first-name basis and all) has actually done quite a bit of writing and directing over the years, though not all of it necessarily good.
God Bless America is the tale of sad sack Frank, played with long-suffering pathos by Mad Men alum Joel Murray (brother of the Almighty Bill Murray), a man who in the course of a day is rejected by his estranged pre-teen daughter, fired from his job for sending the office secretary flowers after a hard day, and told that the massive migraines he’s been having are due to an inoperable brain tumor. With nothing left to look forward to in life besides watching rich, smug, cruel assholes on reality television, Frank decides to take matters into his own hands – he’s dying anyway, after all – and go on a good old-fashioned killing spree by hunting down all the rude, vindictive, miserable fucks he’s been subjected to during his nightly bouts with headache-induced, television-fueled insomnia, racking up an impressive number of kills and recruiting Roxxy, a precocious teenage girl as his protégé and murderous partner-in-crime, played with gleeful viciousness by almost painfully adorable newcomer Tara Lynne Barr.
The best way to describe God Bless America is if Natural Born Killers had been written and directed by Kevin Smith. There’s melodramatic violence in which the Bad Guys Get Theirs, which makes it just fun, goofy schlock, but there’s a major subtext at play that is so heavy-handed that it slows the film to a halt every time it comes forward: the philosophical underpinnings of the entire movie is that Frank is driven to these extreme acts of violence by the moral decay of America. This isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself, but the way in which it is presented to the audience is jarring: it’s like when Silent Bob opens his mouth in Chasing Amy and delivers that awkward, rambling, eponymous monologue that’s supposed to lift the scales from the eyes of Ben Affleck so he stops chasing some low-rent Jennifer Tilly clone, freeing him to go back to making comic books, but only serves to derail the entire movie with a stilted monologue that sounds almost as bad as some of the dialogue in the Star Wars prequels (Kevin, I love you, but you can’t write dialogue for shit sometimes).
Whenever Frank goes off on one of his “this is what’s wrong with the world” diatribes it sounds like an “Air America” talk radio rant. And trust me, I know exactly like what one of those sounds like: I listened to a lot of Al Franken and Rachel Maddow during the George W. Bush administration. Things get a little better once the Roxxy character is introduced, as she offers a sympathetic ear for Frank to discuss his disgust with the cruelty of groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church or the sheer stupidity of mindless, poisonous reality show entertainment, but these long diatribes sound more like a stand-up routine than anything else; it’s no longer Frank talking to another character but Bobcat talking directly to the audience, and it’s one of the only glaring flaws in an otherwise scathingly funny social satire that would have been on my “must own” list otherwise.
Still, it’s better than Twilight.