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“God Bless” Bobcat Goldthwait!

April 20, 2012

Is it possible to get a bad rap when you brought it on yourself? Bobcat Goldthwait was a brilliant stand-up in the ’80s (if you don’t believe me, check out his razor-sharp 1987 HBO special Share the Warmth), but he got lumped in with lesser, louder comics like Gilbert Gottfried and Sam Kinison. He made matters worse with a spate of craptastic movies like Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol and the talking-horse farce Hot to Trot (tagline: “When I talk, you’re going to laugh yourself hoarse”). By the time he made his directorial debut with 1992’s Shakes the Clown (tagline: “It’s the Citizen Kane of alcoholic-clown movies!”), it seemed like his career was over.

But Goldthwait has attempted to reinvent himself in recent years by directing comedies so dark, they make Shakes look like Patch Adams. He’s satirized bestiality (Sleeping Dogs Lie), dead children (World’s Greatest Dad) and now mass murderers with God Bless America, currently available on VOD. Despite its glib title, it’s a surprisingly thoughtful, even sensitive tale of a May-December crime spree with echoes of Bonnie & Clyde, Taxi Driver and Natural Born Killers.

Joel Murray stars as a Syracuse insurance salesman who loses his job for harassing, aka sending flowers to, a coworker on the same day he receives a terminal brain-cancer diagnosis. Like his big brother Bill, Joel excels at both comedy (his lazy lawyer was the best thing about Dharma & Greg) and drama (he’s heartbreakingly good as alcoholic ad-man Freddie Rumsen on Mad Men), and God Bless America gives him ample opportunities to explore both sides of his talent.

He teams up with a high-school girl (kiddie-TV vet Tara Lynne Barr, no relation to Roseanne) and they hit the road, killing anyone who annoys them—reality-TV stars, right-wing political pundits, people who talk on their cell phones in movie theaters. Along the way, they develop a touchingly platonic relationship.

At times, Goldthwait’s script takes too easy aim at the usual targets (Jersey Shore, the Kardashians). But it also fires off well-placed shots at everything from Glee (“it stereotypes and homogenizes homosexuals—plus it ruined Rocky Horror forever!”) to Woody Allen (“Fuck that ‘the heart what it wants’ bullshit—apparently what his heart wants [is] a young hairless Asian”). In the end, God Bless America feels like an act of penance for Bobcat’s past contributions to the culture of idiocy he’s now indicting. By turning spree killers into folk heroes, Goldthwait proves he’s no longer interested in talking horses; he’d rather slaughter sacred cows.

What’s your favorite crime-spree flick? Badlands or Falling Down, anyone? 

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2 Comments
  1. KXB permalink

    Kinison > everyone else but… > Goldthwait > Kathy Griffin

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