God Bless America | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

God Bless America

Our culture is a mess, and one man with a gun is going to fix it, in this dark comedy


This dark and occasionally broody comedy written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait is not for the easily offended. It's uneven, as downbeat as it is occasionally funny, and a baby gets shot in the first five minutes.

A depressed, angry everyman named Frank (Joel Murray) can't bear it that everybody is a boor or an idiot. So he snaps, loads his gun and steals a car. He hooks up with a disaffected teen-age girl (Tara Lynne Barr), and the two head out on a cross-country tour, killing public figures and ordinary citizens they believe to be perpetuating America's cultural decline.

The film is the former standup comedian's platform for ranting about contemporary life — from the annoying (women who call their breasts "the girls," and high-fivers) and the rude (people who use cell phones at movies) to the loop of mean-spirited and destructive culture we're all tumbling in. (I loved the oh-so-true scenes that depicted how much of our socializing is just talking about TV shows, sports or celebrity gossip.) 

The primary cultural villains are reality-TV shows, which mock the untalented or celebrate crassness, and the political commentators on cable news channels, and the film includes hilarious facsimiles of American Idol and Fox News. But what's disturbing is that the fake shows have only been kicked up one notch, putting this satire right on the knife-edge of real life. 

Nothing Goldthwait says is new or particularly insightful, but you gotta respect that he makes a beeline for the unvarnished ugly. A similarly themed comedy from 2001, Mike Judge's Idiocracy, was far more cartoonish, and ultimately, hopeful that things might improve. This America is pretty bleak: It ends as so many hopeless quests do, in a hail of bullets that leaves the larger battle unchanged.

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