Toronto Review: Bobcat Goldthwait's Wild, Violent 'God Bless America'
by Alex Billington
September 10, 2011
There are lots of black comedies, which are usually quite edgy, then there are really, really black comedies, and Bobcat Goldthwait (of Sleeping Dogs Lie, World's Greatest Dad) is one of the kings of those very black comedies. God Bless America is his newest film and it makes quite a bit of fun of America, as if it were Bobcat's rant against the endless idiocy found there, but it's also hilarious in dark—very dark—ways. My first thought is that it's this year's Super (from James Gunn), in terms of the violence and craziness, and its light, amusing tone throughout, but I laughed quite a bit more during this film that I did in that comedy.
Bobcat's God Bless America is is pretty much the ultimate anti-American culture catharsis film, in the fullest extent. A middle-aged man named Frank (played by Joel Murray) loses his job, considers killing himself first, but then takes his gun and starts offing people who "deserve to die", starting with a bratty, spoiled girl who was unhappy by the super sweet 16 birthday party her rich parents threw for her (like that MTV show). Along the way he meets a 14 year old girl named Roxy (played by Tara Lynne Barr) who has the same hate for the stupidity and ridiculousness of modern American culture, and the two go on a roadtrip to stay away from the law and hunt down anyone they don't like. As demented and vicious as this sounds, it's the perfect concept for a black comedy, and if you can sit back and enjoy that insanity, you'll enjoy this as much as I did.
The film is packed full of references and it makes fun of everything from American Idol to Juno and Diablo Cody to energy drinks to every absurd part of American culture that, if you're from Europe, you probably already make fun of. But if you are American, you've probably always wanted to make fun of that stuff and laugh at how absurd all of it is, but haven't had the chance (or have been afraid to). It's not the best film, it gets a bit repetitive with the constant barrage of American pop culture, and the second half slows down and loses the momentum it built, but it's a wild ride and totally worth seeing if you love the very dark, brutally honest humor that Bobcat does so well. It has a bit of Idiocracy to it, along with Gunn's Super, and even Bonnie & Clyde or Natural Born Killers, with some genuine Bobcat wackiness thrown in for good measure.
Since I personally do enjoy those kind of black comedies, especially ones that make fun my own country and culture, I had a great time watching God Bless America, laughing more than I have in a comedy in a while. It might've also helped that the audience was mostly Canadian and they were really in for the ride, laughing often and applauding some of the jokes and lines that honestly tell it like it is. It gets a little preachy at times, making it hard for everyone to enjoy, and repetitive or over-the-top with its mockery of American culture, but I thought it was hilarious. It's not as good as World's Greatest Dad, but it's definitely amusing.
Alex's Toronto Rating: 8 out of 10