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God Bless America? Remembering 1993's Falling Down

Foster: I'm the bad guy?

Prendergast: Yeah.

Foster: How did that happen?  I did everything they told me to. Did you know I build missiles? I help to protect America. You should be rewarded for that. Instead, they give it to the plastic surgeon. They lied to me.

-- Falling Down (1993, screenplay by Ebbe Roe Smith)


The red band trailer of Bobcat Goldthwait’s next movie, God Bless America, is now making its way across the net, as the film itself tools around the festival circuit on its way to a May 11 wide-opening.

Judging solely by its trailer, God Bless America looks like a mutation of Kick-Ass, Heathers, Taxi Driver, Paper Moon, Serial Mom and The End (1978).

Diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, the film’s pathetic protagonist (played by Joel Murray) embarks on a killing spree. He and his teenaged sidekick (Tara Lynne Barr) knock off individuals they’ve deemed deserving of death: a bratty reality TV star, talent show contestants, moviegoers who won't turn off their cell phones, a bunch of Fred Phelps’ followers:

Based on the trailer alone, I’m not impressed – unlike the folks at certain pop culture sites. (The writer at ScreenJunkies enthused, “The trailer for God Bless America looks like my dream journal!”)

The movie looks awfully derivative (see “mutation” above). Look: I’m 47 years old, I’ve already seen a lot of movies and I can’t undo that. Most new films are either remakes and franchise sequels surfing on stunt-casting fumes, CGI and catchy soundtracks, or Tarantinoesque “homages” to far superior movies I saw when I was 17.

I’m not averse to filmmakers making cinematic references; the movie I’m about to discuss “quotes” Fellini’s 8 ½ in its opening sequence. But quotes are a long way from plagiarism and lazy, sterile regurgitation.

Because every movie today seems to be simply a collection of winking "homages" to other ones, expect to hear God Bless America compared to Falling Down (1993). A lot. I remember when that Joel Schumacher movie was condemned as a sign of the end times, and for better or worse, most of us are still alive. God Bless America will no doubt be condemned too, for its "glorification" of violence (and, I suspect, the weird friendship between a middle-aged man and an adolescent girl).

However, God Bless America’s apparent differences from its revenge-fantasy predecessor demonstrate the distance Hollywood (and society) has traveled in the last 20 years. Not necessarily in the right direction, of course.

“Filmed during the L.A. riots and released on the same day as the World Trade Center bombing and two days before the siege at the Branch Davidian compound (which ended badly), [Falling Down] could be said to be a record of fear and loathing extant in the real world of early ’90s America.”

-- Bee Tee Dee, Unwinnable.com