A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that God Bless America is a dark, dark comedy from Bobcat Goldthwait, the maker of World's Greatest Dad. The movie takes an angry stance against the media for its extreme vulgarity and stupidity -- but its "solution" is violence and killing. There are violent, gory slayings, especially in the opening few minutes, when the main character imagines killing a family (including a crying baby). Language is very strong and constant, with just about every swear word imaginable. There's also strong sexual innuendo and uncomfortable sexual tension between the two main characters, a late-40s man and a late-teen girl, though no sex. Both characters smoke cigarettes, the man drinks beer, and there are drug references. And though the movie is anti-consumerist, it has lots of references to real brands as well as spoofs of brands and fake TV ads.
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What's the story?
Frank (Joel Murray) suffers from insomnia and migraines, loses his job (for trying to be nice to a receptionist), and is diagnosed with a brain tumor. While watching vulgar, stupid, extreme reality TV, news, and commercials, he decides to kill himself. But before he can squeeze the trigger, he notices a reality show about a spoiled teen girl, "Chloe," and decides to kill her instead. His deed attracts the admiration and gratitude of one of Chloe's classmates, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), and the unlikely pair goes on a killing spree, planning to rid America of all the annoying reality stars, talk show hosts, and other spreaders of stupidity and hatred.
Is it any good?
This movie has the courage of its convictions all the way up to the closing credits. Bobcat Goldthwait, who achieved fame in the 1980s with his stand-up comedy and his roles in the Police Academy movies, has re-invented himself as a maker of potent black comedies and ferocious commentaries on the withering of the American Dream. His last, World's Greatest Dad, was brilliant and brutal, and God Bless America is its equal. It's a movie for anyone who has ever rolled their eyes at American Idol and the like.
Whereas World's Greatest Dad had a great performance by Robin Williams in the lead, Murray -- briefly seen as a policeman in The Artist -- brings a wry, touching quality to his role in God Bless America. Goldthwait has a knack for pushing the lines between appealing characters and appalling situations. Just when it seems like the movie is about to go too far, it changes direction and gets back on track. Murray carries the burden of this balance, and he pulls it off.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about God Bless America's violence. Why would a character react so strongly to the media and its effects? Is this reaction out of proportion?
Is the movie angry, or funny, or both? How does this qualify as a "black comedy"? Does the movie offer any real solutions?
The movie depicts the media as mean, vulgar, violent, and "extreme." How close is this to the actual media of today? How is it different?
- In theaters: May 11, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: July 3, 2012
- Cast: Aris Alvarado, Joel Murray, Maddie Hasson, Tara Lynne Barr
- Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
- Studios: Magnet Releasing, Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence and language including some sexual sequences
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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