We often think of satire as a work that mocks something in an effort to change or point out the problems it addresses. The great satires do just that. Take for instance Dr. Strangelove which points out the absurdity of the Cold War or In the Loop which points out how truly idiotic our political systems can be. They put a camera in the room with a problem and allow us to judge it. This usually works, but God Bless America decides to ditch it entirely. Instead the director’s mouthpiece Frank rants at us for most of the movie’s 100-minute runtime. He takes all of the work out of the audience’s hands and just shoves his message down our throats. By doing this he turns the movie into little more than an angry rant.
The sad thing is that Bobcat Goldthwait, the director, makes a lot of interesting points about the dire state of current pop culture, but he fails to vary his message effectively throughout the film. Instead he simply states the same points over and over again ad nauseum. It’s as if he wrote the first 15 pages of the script and liked them so much that he ended up just copying and pasting them a couple times instead of writing the rest of the script. These ideas would have been better served if they were delivered in an Internet rant or essay instead of an entire movie. I don’t know if he thinks the audience is stupid or if he just lacks any subtly, but he seems incapable of delivering anything more than I hate reality TV.
Maybe I could overlook this if the characters had their own stories or if the movie followed an interesting plot, but unfortunately the movie can’t even deliver that. The plot is bare bones and characters are flat and unchanging. It’s probably even a misnomer to call them characters. It might be more accurate to call them the director’s mouthpieces, as they seem to act as nothing more than devices for the director to rant at the audience with. Take Frank for example, he begins the movie filled with rage at the ignorant and mean people around him, i.e. everyone, and ends the movie with no changes to his character. He’s still just the same cynical, angry, middle-aged man we began with.
The only thing saving this movie from its many problems is the provocative idea at its center. I mean who hasn’t at one time or another wanted to lash out at society, to just buy a bunch of guns and unload on everything you’ve ever hated. That’s a golden idea, and in combination with the wonderful acting of Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr it almost saves the movie. But, things like interesting concepts and great acting by themselves do little. They simply give the opportunity to reach greatness, and I’m sad to say that Bobcat Goldthwait missed that opportunity entirely.
Rating: 2 out of 5