God Bless America: Bobcat Goldthwait’s License to Kill

Bobcat Goldthwait has been writing and directing hit-or-miss films since 1991’s Shakes the Clown. Since then he’s been developing himself as an honest and unique voice in American comedy. He took a big leap in the right direction with 2006’s Sleeping Dogs Lie, establishing himself as formidable American filmmaker. 2009’s World’s Greatest Dad was something special – an incredibly dark and human film. How does his latest film fare? Find out after the jump.

Sometime in between 2009 and his latest film, Bobcat watched a marathon of MTV’s loathsome “reality” “show”, My Super Sweet 16. If you’re not familiar, it’s a celebration of the most spoiled, shitty kids in the U.S. who had their genitalia dipped in gold at birth. This celebrated display of mean-spirited self-entitlement enraged Bobcat enough to pen God Bless America – a cinematic assault rifle aimed at all of the inconsiderate pricks, those West Baptist MFers, TMZ leeches, Fox Newsspreaders of fear, and shock jocks our country has to offer. And Bobcat’s got a lot of ammo.

The movie opens with our anti-hero, Frank (Joel Murray), an average white collar man who firmly believes in common sense and decency, fantasizing about murdering his loud-mouthed neighbors. He can’t sleep at night due to their yelling-approach to parenting and his chronic headaches. Adding fuel to the fire is his ex-wife who is gradually turning his daughter into one of those demonic Sweet 16 snots and all of the bullshit Frank watches during his bouts of insomnia. After one particularly horrible day at work, Frank takes out his pistol and embarks on a homicidal roadtrip – like Natural Born Killers targeting everything Idiocracy farcically warned us about.

He’s joined by 16-year-old Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a girl with a surprising amount of beef and Alice Cooper love for someone so young. If it was up to Roxy, the duo would gun down anyone who made a bad movie (Diablo Cody), anyone who high-fives, or says “stoked” (I’d be dead). She’s more intolerant than Frank and way more blood-thirsty. Together they shoot, stab, and choke their way through the assholes of America – leading up to a stand-off at the douchiest reality TV competition of them all. The violence is always cartoony (except the choke) and comical with lots of blood splattering around. After a little while though, Bobcat kinda runs out of things to say.

Shortly into the film, Frank delivers his speech on American culture. It’s a fervent manifesto on “why should we have a civilization if we’re not going to act civilized.” It’s a fantastic, moving movement that’s supremely well-written by Bobcat – a man with a serious axe to grind. While I agree with everything he has to say, after it’s said the movie just becomes a 90 minute hit list that jumps from awful person to awful person. There’s no development of theme or character. There’s plenty of room for Frank’s outlook to shift as he sees hope in our future through Roxy, but it never happens. He starts out gunning and goes out gunning.

That’s not to say the movie isn’t entertaining. It’s very entertaining at times – the teddy bear target practice and handkerchief gag are maybe my two favorite moments. It just sort of runs out of steam quickly and we’re just left waiting for another murder. There’s a baffling plot twist that I feel was inserted to bring some kind of depth to the story. It sadly just comes off as ham-fisted. Maybe Bobcat just needed to let off some steam with this film. In the end, I’m fine with that. It’s worth seeing just for that – it’s a great middle finger of a movie that’s well shot, written, and acted – especially by Frank. Don’t expect character development or any of that crap. You know, none of the stuff you’d find in an MTV reality show.

God Bless America is On Demand now and will be in theaters May 11.