Thanks for not talking during the feature.
Frank Murdoch is fed up. After being diagnosed with a brain tumor and repeatedly dismissed by his ex-wife and daughter, Frank decides to take his own life. Before he pulls the trigger, Frank reflects on a recent late-night television binge during which he saw teen moms in a catfight, an ad for a farting-pig ringtone and conservative shock jocks skewering the Obama administration. Frank decides his bullets would be better spent on others, particularly those he considers responsible for making America a cesspool of trash TV, Internet bloggers and much other idiocy. Joined by a rebellious sixteen-year-old girl, Frank begins dealing out just desserts across the country. God Bless America, from Bobcat Goldthwait, is blunt as a hammer and tackles a lot of easy targets during its Conservative-baiting 105 minutes, but, if nothing else, earns some big laughs with its snappy dialogue and grouchy performance by Joel Murray.
Frank (Murray) has the worst day ever when he gets the bad news from the doctor, is fired for sending a coworker flowers, and is dumped on by his spoiled young daughter. Frank can't sleep because of his loud neighbors, so he watches late-night television. The catalyst for Frank's rampage is the film's spoof of MTV's My Super Sweet 16, in which birthday girl Chloe shrieks at her parents for getting her a Lexus instead of an Escalade. Frank goes to Chloe's high school and empties a clip into her obnoxious ass, much to the excitement of outcast Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who strong-arms Frank into letting her join him in a gleeful road trip of murder for the good of America.
Among the film's targets are American Idol, the Kardashians and Fox News. What God Bless America lacks in subtlety it makes up for in gleeful nastiness. Frank and Roxy blast a couple of rude movie theater patrons into oblivion in a scene many a conscientious moviegoer has dreamt of. The pair is mainly perturbed at those who belittle others for kicks and detract from society. A running gag in God Bless America is a terrible "American Superstarz" reality performance that goes viral. Frank is horrified that the American populace continues to laugh at the performer, who might be mentally handicapped. Frank's passion for the oppressed is admirable, but it often takes a backseat to his frustration with the plain old annoying. Since God Bless America is a capital-S satire, it goes without saying that Frank and Roxy's self-approved punishments do not fit the crimes.
Goldthwait, best known as a professional comedian, gets a lot of laughs directing from his own script. The dialogue is snappy and crass, like a mix of screenwriter Kevin Williamson's thrillers and Diablo Cody. Murray is an affable grump; just likable enough that the audience feels sorry for him. Murray plays his misery without self-pity, as if he long ago lost the ability to be shocked by anything. Barr recalls a young Christina Ricci, searching for companionship and affection in sometimes-inappropriate places. Naturally, Roxy likes classic rock and hates hipsters, but lacks true friends and family affection. God Bless America gets a little stale in the last act, when it becomes clear that the film is not getting any smarter. Until then, though, God Bless America plows constantly forward down some darkly comedic roads.
Magnolia's 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is bright and clear, with bold colors and plenty of detail. God Bless America was shot digitally, and the result is a steady, uncomplicated appearance. Black levels are good, aliasing is rare, and there are no signs of digital tinkering. Other than some occasional softness, God Bless America looks about as good as a moderately budgeted new release should.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack reflects the film's moderate budget. Dialogue is generally clear and audible, though I noticed a few spots where lines seemed stifled. There is not much surround action, despite the frequent gunfire, but the track is decently weighty, especially during the American Superstarz finale. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
In the Audio Commentary from Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr, the director and actors discuss the production and origins of the project. The film was obviously made by a tightknit group, and Goldthwait recalls the fun everyone had on set. This is a pretty funny track that actually includes some useful information about the film. Behind the Scenes: Killing with Kindness (27:34/HD) serves as the film's making-of documentary, and features interviews with the cast and crew. Also included are God Bless TV: Deleted and Extended Scenes (5:00/HD), which are additional mock shows, and some Outtakes (2:29/HD). The Interview with Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr (27:42/HD) duplicates some of the commentary material, and HD Net: A Look at God Bless America (4:54/HD) is little more than an extended trailer. Roxy & Frank Music Video (3:02/HD) is a set of stills set to a song by Mike Carano, and Magnolia also includes the film's theatrical trailer (2:21/HD) and the increasingly rare BD-Live Access.
Ex-desk jockey Frank Murdoch and high-school sourpuss Roxy take up killing the idiots that clog America's airwaves in God Bless America. This blunt but effective satire from Bobcat Goldthwait skewers drunken celebrities, conservative pundits and reality television, but supplements the offing of obvious targets with some relatable social commentary. Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr make a delightfully skewed Bonnie & Clyde. Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.