God Bless America – 2011

Written and Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr, Mackenzie Brooke Smith, Melinda Page Hamilton

When I saw the commercial for God Bless America, I saw Joel Murray with nothing left to lose. Somewhere in there, maybe I was confused with the image of his brother Bill, who always plays that character. Joel did have a good run as Freddy Rumsen on Mad Men. I wanted to see more of that guy.

And I suppose that is some of what we get here in this story of Frank Murdoch, pushed over the edge by indecency. He’s being inundated by horrible images on TV, neighbors who are rude, his ex-wife who is allowing their daughter to become part of the problem. Then he loses his job. Then he is told he’s going to be dying soon because of a cancerous growth in his head.

He decides to take it out on a reality TV spoiled princess. In the process, he’s spotted by a particularly cynical classmate of the girl (Barr) who prevents him from stopping at one. Instead, they embark on a Starkweather / Fugate style spree which serves to salve the empty spot in their souls left behind by those miserable ‘Muricans.

The sentiment is strictly left leaning. Tea party patriots, Tucker Carlson type pundits, Westboro Baptist Church folks and American Idol are all lumped together for special condescension and targeting.

Since this is made by a middle-aged male, Frank becomes the object of affection by his nubile partner in crime right off the bat. To his credit, of course, he resists. But this doesn’t keep her from trying again and again.

The inexplicable nature of the relationship takes Murray out of his game, but once in a while he finds the humor of it all. Barr is limited to spouting the estimated platitudes provide for her character by someone who’s never been a teenage girl.

It’s too bad, because I wanted to see a Murray being funny while being anti-social. Goldthwait is not an incapable comedian, but none of the material transcends the events. It wants to be a statement, but it’s not quite a sentence.

(** out of *****)

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